Happy New Year!

This post was, obviously, supposed to be written yesterday. But as with so many things in my life at the moment, it didn’t happen because the baby needed me more. However, my day yesterday started well with a lovely breakfast (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast is bliss) and a walk in the park in the sunshine when the baby fell asleep. At that point, I was going to write this post. But he woke up when we got home, and never really went to sleep for more than 15 minutes again…

New Years Day breakfast - smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

New Years Day breakfast – smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

At least when we finally did get him to sleep at 9:30, he slept well in the night. I didn’t, because while he went straight back to sleep (and I normally do), I couldn’t. But it was nice to know I could have, if my brain had shut up…

My main new year’s resolution is to get more sleep this year! The others are to eat more healthily (I’m aiming small to start with: 10 different fruits/veg per week, at least a litre and a half of water a day, and taking my vitamins each day) and to be nicer to both my husband and myself. I’m going to take at least half an hour a day where I and the baby are not in the same place, and make sure my husband does too. And I’m going to be less snappy and bitchy, because I don’t like myself when I act like that and it’s not fair on my husband whose only fault is often to just be around. This should be easier with regular breaks from childcare, more sleep, and better nutrition. I’m also going to start doing exercise (in my half hour breaks of freedom, if need be).

I wish you all a happy, healthy 2016, full of love and laughter!

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Brussels: terrorism, snow and bleakness. Also a baby with a book!

It’s been an odd weekend here in Brussels. For security reasons, in light of an apparent credible and specific threat, much of the public transport system (anything that goes underground) has been shut down, shopping centres have been closed, and people have been warned to stay away from places where there might be large crowds. Football matches have been cancelled, municipal sports centres and swimming pools have been closed, as have museums and monuments like the Atomium.

In addition, the army have been brought onto the streets of Brussels:

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No one seems quite sure when this is all going to end – obviously, if they catch whoever they’re looking for, that would be grand. But if they don’t, are they just going to lift the restrictions anyway to let people get to work during the week? Is the threat something peculiarly time-limited which means it could only happen this weekend, for some odd reason? Who knows. For once, I’m not bothered that we don’t go into town much at the moment!

Atomium on a sunny day

The Atomium photo above was taken a few weeks ago, when my in-laws came to visit – this weekend, though, the weather has joined in the general misery, with yesterday seeing our first snow of the year. I’d like to think it will also be our last, but that’s overly optimistic, given the bloody freezing temperatures forecast for next week… Another good reason to stay inside with the heating on and pretend that we’re somewhere tropical.

The boy has started trying his hardest to stay awake for as long as possible, even when he’s absolutely exhausted. Which leads to him getting angry and crying (he takes after his mother in this respect), which stops him sleeping, which all builds into a vicious cycle. The only way we’ve found to break the cycle to to wrap him in his sling and take him for a walk outside. This is quite a nice idea when it’s sunny outside, even if it’s a bit cold – less attractive an option when it’s dark, raining and freezing, though… We need to find an alternative that works that we can use when the crap weather really kicks in – I fear there might not be one. Any suggestions gratefully received!

When he’s not screaming, we’re introducing him to books. It started well:

Baby reading

And then he got bored of reading and decided to eat the book:

Baby eating book, having given up reading

We’ll come back to that one…

Paris

The Eiffel Tower

Paris is a city I know well. It was my home for 5 years. It’s where I went to university and where I had one of my favourite jobs. It’s where I met my husband, and where I still have many friends.

When I woke up at stupid o’clock this morning to feed the baby, my husband told me there had been a shooting at a restaurant in Paris. Looking at the news while feeding the boy, we realised it had been so very much worse than that. So many dead, so many injured, so many traumatised people. And there must be many scared people in Paris today, even if they weren’t directly affected by this horror. My thoughts are with the victims of this atrocity, and their families and friends. And I’ll be thinking, too, of my friends and former colleagues, as Paris picks itself up and slowly starts to heal from this.

Today must be about helping the victims, about those who have lost their lives, those who have been injured and those who had their lives turned upside down in this one horrendous night. But one day soon, I hope things will go back to normal for people in Paris, that you start to go out and enjoy life again despite the existence of sad, delusional little people like those who carried out these attacks. The world stands with you today.

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Ah, sleep. How I miss you.

I’m sure I used to be a person with a job and the vague semblance of a social life. Or at least the ability to stay awake past 8:30 in the evening.

And I know I used to not think that 5 hours was an amazing, life-changing amount of sleep.

Where did that all go? I no longer know what day it is – I’m not even really sure what month it is without looking at the computer, to be honest, but on the rare occasions I get to leave the house, it’s cold. So I assume it’s now winter, though you can never really tell with Belgium.

I can tell when it’s day time, because it’s light outside – we have even had some actual sunshine recently – compared to night time, when it’s darker. (Light pollution means it’s never actually dark.) We spend our days in the living room, and our nights – which start at about 7:45 – in the bedroom, trying to introduce some vague semblance of a routine to my now 10-week-old baby. It’s not really working, but it helps to think I’m trying to achieve something, anyway. He still cries a lot, and doesn’t sleep very much, although we’ve had a couple of days in the last couple of weeks when he’s slept for 5 hours in a row, which have been bliss. The other night, he slept from 9:30 to 3am, then 3:30 til 6, which was lovely. Shame we can’t do that every night. Yet. (I have hope that this will start to improve…)

He’s talking a lot more now – not actual words, of course, but he’s practising making sounds and chattering away to us, himself, the world. He sort of dances to the music in his baby gym, too, which is beyond cute. And he smiles a lot more – daddy’s face is particularly amusing, it seems!

I’m dying for more sleep, eating crap at weird times of day, and exercise has become a faint dream after an optimistic start with the Couch 2 5k programme. I will get back to that, once the boy has more predictable sleep patterns in the day (so we know that when he goes to sleep, he’s going to stay asleep for more than half an hour!) I’m also feeling oddly isolated – which sometimes bothers me and sometimes doesn’t – although I can go places, as long as I’m willing to carry an increasingly heavy baby around, it all feels like a bit of an effort, so I don’t very often go further than the cafes at the end of the road, or the park. I very occasionally go for lunch with friends back at the office. I don’t have the spare hands or the concentration span to chat to people online, past the 140-character Twitter limit, which is about all my thoughts are worth these days in any case. So it can be a bit isolated and lonely, especially on days when my husband’s working at the office, rather than at home.

But things are improving, slowly. The baby’s sleeping more, so I’m sleeping more, which helps an incalculable amount. My husband is being amazing, making sure we have food, doing all the laundry (and they don’t really emphasise enough how much laundry a new baby creates) and generally keeping everything going, despite my occasional hormonal/sleep-deprived/bored/lonely-and-frustrated outbreaks of misery. This will get easier. It has to. I will get more used to it, and I’ve ordered a milking machine, which should mean I can pump milk when the baby’s asleep and then my husband can feed him a bottle of pumped milk in the evenings or if I need to go out for a few hours without the baby. It will be bliss, if it works.

I’m also considering how daft it would really be to do NaNoWriMo with a 3-month-old baby…

Baby gym - 9 weeks

A few things people don’t tell you about having a baby

It’s relentless. I mean, yes, you’d expect it to be if you thought about this properly, but no one seems to appropriately emphasise how difficult it is to never, ever be able to switch off. You’re always in charge of an otherwise totally helpless little person, and you don’t ever get a break. It’s exhausting, even if you were to be getting enough sleep. Which you’re not.

Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing. There is a reason that torturers use sleep deprivation on prisoners; breaking sleep into 1- and 2-hour chunks makes everything so hideously exhausting, even if you’re actually getting a sensible overall number of hours of sleep. (Well, 5 or 6 hours a night. Is that sensible? It’s better than it was.) And yes, it’s slowly (very, very slowly) improving – we’re now taking two steps forward and only one step back, so progress is being made – but it’s hard to notice and appreciate this when you’re so. fucking. tired. Staying awake to breastfeed through the night is increasingly difficult, and we’ve taken to feeding in bed for the most awful times so I don’t drop the little guy if I fall asleep.

Hormones are ridiculously powerful things. Especially when coupled with sleep deprivation, and so you often end up crying over nothing and everything. I’ve cried because the baby was crying (to be fair, you’d cry too, no matter who you are, faced with a baby that had been screaming constantly between 4am and 10pm, except when he was feeding from you); I’ve cried because the baby wouldn’t wake up to eat and I was worried he’d starve to death or dehydrate; I’ve cried over pictures of refugees (and so should you be doing; it’s a horrendous situation, made only slightly better by the reaction of people in Munich) and, most recently, I’ve cried on hearing about a study done on baby monkeys to test whether babies need food or comfort more. (Comfort, at least if you’re a baby monkey – they went to the fake stuffed monkey that cuddled them, rather than the metal monkey that dispensed milk. I’m tearing up just thinking about these poor baby monkeys cuddling a stuffed mummy monkey because they need to be loved.)

Babies are actually adorable. Probably related to the hormones. Despite the sleep deprivation, the screaming, the vomiting over all your clothes just as you’re about to finally leave the house and see other grown-ups, the projectile poo (bonus points for pooing all over yourself, the changing mat, daddy, and the bed and clean sheets on the other side of the room, baby…) babies are still so amazingly cute when they cuddle up to you, all nice and warm and sleepy and full of milk. (Sleepy is probably the key part of this, for obvious reasons, but still. Adorable.)

They say the sleep deprivation starts to get better when the baby’s 6 weeks old, and improves noticeably when you hit the 12-week mark. He’s nearly 5 weeks now, so hopefully not long to go now… (I did get a blissful stretch of nearly 4 hours in a row last night. It was amazing.)

Baby sleeping

Sleep deprivation, nappies and chaos

So, you’ll have noticed posts have been increasingly sparse recently. You can’t really have failed to notice – I certainly have, despite not actually doing anything about it. This is for a number of reasons, some of them work-related, but most of them due to the impending arrival of this little chap, who was born 3 weeks ago yesterday:

my son

I’ve been lucky, and both pregnancy and birth were fairly easy (if you ignore the complications of the DVT, which did mean the birth needed more planning than normal). Epidurals are an amazing thing, and while I respect that some people prefer not to have them, I will be asking for one as soon as possible if I have another baby! (I held off out of some misguided desire to see how bad it would get. Pretty bad, is the answer, in case you’re wondering.)

This post was interrupted at this point for 3 hours while I fed him, changed his nappy, changed his clothes, fed him some more, cleaned up baby sick, changed the bed sheets, fed him some more to stop the crying. Finally he fell asleep, which meant I got to have a shower. Parenting is so very far from glamourous. Most of my meals and my coffees are cold by the time I actually get to them, and most of my sleep for the last 3 weeks has been in one-hour blocks. It is not much fun, but they tell me things will improve soon.

Now, while he’s still sleeping, I need to try and find something to eat myself. I shall try and post again soon…

Not dead

I haven’t forgotten you all, I promise. I’ve just been quite busy recently – hopefully in a week or two, I’ll be able to tell you all about it, and you’ll understand! (Those of you who already know, I’ve been very impressed with your discretion so far; thank you!)

Brussels continues as normal – quieter now it’s the summer, not that you’d know from the weather today… We did have glorious sunshine for a week or two earlier in July – and hot and humid weather, in line with much of the rest of Europe, which wasn’t quite so pleasant. The heat would have been fine, but I’m not a fan of humidity at the best of times, and the downside of a flat with poor insulation is that it doesn’t just get cold in the winter, it gets and stays hot in good weather too. So there were a few nights of whingeing misery, sleeping with the fan on and generally making a nuisance of myself… I’m sure my husband was as thrilled as you’d expect.

We’ve done a lot of IKEA furniture building recently – I know people mock the instructions IKEA send through, but they are models of clarity and comprehensiveness, compared to some of the other pictorial instruction booklets I’ve had to read recently. Seriously, some people need to rethink their picture books from the point of view of people who know nothing about the subject matter, because they make absolutely no sense and aren’t drawn clearly enough to make the distinction between the “you MUST do this” and the “you MUST NOT do this or the world will end” pictures more obvious. IKEA actually do quite well at this, I’ve been impressed!

My injections continue – they’re getting easier with practice and, as my mistakes haven’t killed me yet, my anxiety levels have (very slowly!) gone down too. So I no longer really worry that I might accidentally kill myself by stabbing myself in the belly on a daily basis. Isn’t that progress… I have been told that this progress is pretty much only actually detectable in my mind – to the outside world, I still look and sound stressed about it. And I am, just much less so than I was! It’s still not any fun, just not longer triggering panic about being potentially lethal and death-inducing if I screw it up. To me, this is a huge improvement!

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now. Hopefully my next few updates will come more frequently – I’m sorry for the recent silence!

Deep vein thrombosis

So, just over a week ago, doctors found a blood clot in my leg, blocking one of the veins in my calf. Only partially blocking, I think, and it’s not a very big clot. No one seems to be deeply worried about it, so I’m trying not to be either.

It does, however, mean that two things have changed: I have to wear compression stockings all day every day for somewhere up to 2 years (I’m going to seek specialist advice on this in a couple of months; 2 years is a ridiculously long time, surely not everyone with DVT wears these daft socks for 2 years!) and I have to have daily injections of blood thinners for the next 3 months.

The sexy, sexy stockings the hospital gave me are, frankly, hideous. They’re white, and they don’t really fit well (they don’t stay up, which kind of defeats the object, really) and they’re hot and sweaty and ugly. Luckily, the private sector has stepped up to the plate here, and I have found some nearly skin coloured, open-toed versions that fit properly and mean I can wear flip-flops. So things are looking up on that front. I just need to buy a second pair, and then I’ll be set.

For the injections, well, they’re a bit of a hassle. They are pre-filled syringes that need to be injected into my stomach, changing side each day. I had been going to the nurse up the road so she could do them, and a nurse had been coming to my house at the weekend to do them. But that’s a bit of a hassle, and not really convenient for the next 3 months, although everyone has assured me that they don’t mind at all and are happy to help, which is lovely. In fact, everyone’s been lovely – my doctors have called and emailed me to check I’m ok, the nurses have been so helpful and nice, it’s been reassuring, given how terrified I’ve been of getting a DVT. (In my head, if you got DVT, you were going to die because bits of it could come off and go into your lungs and kill you at any moment. This is possible, but I’m told it’s only really a problem if you don’t know you’ve got a clot, and so aren’t taking the blood thinners. The blood thinners are supposed to stop new clots forming, stop this one moving, and give my body the time it needs to dissolve and absorb the clot.)

So, given the hassle of going to the nurse every day for injections, I’ve been super-brave and learnt how to do them myself. Today is the 4th time I’ve injected myself, and the second time I’ve done it unsupervised. I’m sure this will get easier with practice, and I’m assured the injections are pretty much idiot-proof, but I’m still kind of terrified that I’m fucking it up somehow and might accidentally kill myself. I know, rationally, that this is extremely unlikely – they wouldn’t let me do it, if it were likely (or even, really, possible) for me to fuck things up like that but still. Anxiety kicks in every single time I inject myself, and takes a while to dissipate afterwards. Hence this post, which is trying to write it all away…

I am proud of myself for being able to give myself the injections, even if I’m all anxious about it afterwards. That will presumably fade as I don’t, in fact, die as a result of injecting myself. I’m not great with needles at the best of times, so this is quite a big step for me. And it will make my life a lot easier to manage, now I have proper socks and can do my own injections. I shall be so very glad when they can stop though – which, all going well, should happen just before my wedding anniversary. So that’ll be a nice present, at least!

Wish me luck, and if anyone has any suggestions for making life easier with deep vein thrombosis, or dealing with anxiety and general freaking out, please do share!

A walk through Villefranche – lots of photos

So, I’m still thinking over whether to publish the draft post I’ve got written, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some more photos! This is the village in the South of France we used to live in, and it’s one of my favourite places. So when we were back round there on holiday, I took some photos – including lots of photos of flowers, to practice some macro photography.

This is a post designed to be pretty, rather than hugely informative, since I’m now back in Brussels where it’s grey and bleh, and we don’t have any coffee or milk for breakfast. So energy is a little lacking here; I’m replacing it with colour!

Up steps in Place des Conseils - Villefranche old town

Steps up to the church - Villefranche old town

Steps in Villefranche old town

Rue Poilu - Villefranche old town

Place des conseils - Villefranche old town

Looking up along rue Poilu -Villefranche old town

Looking back down rue Poilu -Villefranche old town

Looking back along rue Poilu -Villefranche old town

Fountain in Villefranche

Fountain - place des conseils - Villefranche old town

Cat sunbathing

Yellow flowers 2

Yellow flowers 1

Vine

Tiny purple flower

Tiny purple flowers and leaves

Tiny pink flower 3

Tiny pink flower 2 with bug

Tiny pink flower 1

Tiny green flowers

Stone flowers 6

Stone flowers 5

Stone flowers 4

Stone flowers 3

Stone flowers 2

Stone flowers 1

Red leaves

Purple paper flowers 3

Purple paper flowers 2

Purple paper flowers 1

Purple leaves in rock

Purple flowers - close-up

Purple flower - closed

Closed flowers, ready to bloom

Pink paper flowers 5

Pink paper flowers 4

Pink paper flowers 3

Pink paper flowers 2

Pink paper flowers 1

Pink flower - macro

Pink flower - close-up

Pink and yellow flower - open

Pink and yellow flower - closed

Jasmine

Green leaves

Foxglove - close-up

Dandelion head

Dandelion head - dead

Who are you and how did you find this blog?

So, I was wondering this morning, how did you find this blog? I know a couple of you know me in person, and I assume most of the rest of you followed me from my Nice blog – is that right? Did you find me another way? Do I know more of you than I think I do?

Let me know in the comments, and maybe tell me a bit about you if I don’t know you and you’re feeling talkative.

It’ll help me decide whether to post the draft post I’ve just written…