In preparing for the arrival of baby Sam, I made a list, as I tend to do. I marked what could be done before the birth, and what could be done after. I marked what needed research, and where I could purchase everything. The list was thorough, a culmination of googling baby necessities and talking to friends.
The nursery was a thing, so I designated a room – or rather – the room designated itself – the only one without a bed in it that didn’t sometimes get used as a guest room. I wasn’t one of those people keen to paint it or buy a whole lot of new, purpose-built furniture. We had an old desk, which could double as a change table. The chest of drawers could be cleaned out to house baby clothes. And the wardrobe could just stay there because… well how much stuff do babies really need anyway?
The decision to have a child is not a simple one for everyone. And as you may already know, I could come up with many more reasons not to have children, than to have them. And one of the big ones, for me, was simply the unfairness of being the woman. Because in the story of procreation, a man can be the most supportive being on the planet, but he still can’t do what a woman can.
I want to give a shout out to all those ladies out there who breastfed their children, including myself since I’m currently in the midst of it. I also want to give a shout out to all those who tried, only to find, that for whatever reason, it did not work out. And while I’m here, I also want to give a shout out to anyone who decided to bottle feed their babe, because after all, fed is best, and in many ways it feels like that would be the smart route.
I thought breastfeeding was an all or nothing thing. I knew it wasn’t easy, and did not work for everyone, and I held myself to no expectations. If it works, I said, I’ll do it, and if not, whatever. I thought there would be a black and white reason why it would work, or not, but what I’ve dug up is a whole lot of shades of grey.
They say you forget the pain of childbirth. Ha! Who are they kidding? Sure, time passes, and like everything that passes, it feels less traumatic. But I’m not going to forget the pain of childbirth any more than I forget the chronic back pain I had to navigate through to get to that point.
But I can reflect back on the experience and choose to put away the worst parts. That I don’t think I can do this feeling, knowing it was all on me. And the expressions on the doctor and nurses faces toward the end when I could well see they were concerned but didn’t want to show how much. I can remember how from all this experience, I got something out of it (apart from a healthy child) – I learnt a new German word.
Covid? What’s Covid? Oh that awful thing that plagued us for two years and is now… gone? Except it’s not gone… and though we’ve enjoyed a deliciously warm early start to summer here in Austria, it’s not even really trying to hide. Luckily, it has wound itself down so it’s not causing the kind of mayhem it did previously. But it’s still causing plenty of disruptions.
I know that if it hits me everything will be fine. But still, being pregnant I’m being extra careful. Because the numbers, despite the good weather, are a lot higher than they were this time last year. And I just need to get through two or so more weeks. So yeah, I’m still wearing my mask. I’m still social distancing.
The question on everyone’s lips right now is… what are you having… boy or girl? Actually, we don’t know. Apparently we’re among the very few these days who don’t find out. For me, I just don’t really care. I can wait. I don’t mind what colour it wears or even what it wears – I figure that’s onesies for the first little while anyway.
I didn’t need other people to know and I also didn’t want to be one of those people that did the we know but we’re not telling anyone. Possibly because I’d inadvertently say he or she and let the cat out of the bag. In Austria the article for baby is ‘das’ – it. So that’s just easier. Though I do move between the three and confuse people no end.
I tend to rebel against tradition just a little. Maybe I like things easier, or maybe I just like to rebel. I didn’t want a traditional wedding. And I’m not expecting that I’ll live up to the traditional expectations of parenthood – after all – there’s more than one way to skin a… baby?
I’m so glad I live in a country that doesn’t know what a baby shower is. It’s not me. It’s ok for those who want one, but I’m glad there’s no expectation here. There will be no maternity photo-shoot, or baby-shoot for that matter – where it angelically sits in a terracotta pot with a garland of flowers on its grumpy head.
Being pregnant… well to be honest it actually kind of sux.
We think we shouldn’t complain. Because everyone does it, right? Plenty of women go through this. When we’re asked how we are, we’re doing ok – it could be worse. When someone tries to help us we say “Leave me alone, I’m pregnant, not dying.” I think part of the reason for this is that we want to maintain our independence. We want to be ok. We want to be able to do all the things we can normally do. We don’t want to appear weak.
But the thing is, although we are certainly not dying, we are busy. Our bodies are working much harder than they usually do. Everyday tasks can be more difficult, can take longer than normal, and there’s this low level of discomfort all the time, I think no matter how easy your pregnancy is. There’s also this low level fear… what if I do something that compromises the baby, even unknowingly or unwillingly.
Maternity leave is a hotly debated topic the world over. I’m lucky that in Austria this translates to a pretty good deal. In fact, I was told when I first considered moving here that if I wanted to have kids one day, I should definitely stay in Austria.
I can’t go into all the details because to be honest, I don’t know them. Hubby thankfully took on all the research of the myriad of options, taking into account financial considerations, and then set it out for me in an easy to digest format.
When to reveal to the outside world that you’re pregnant is always a hot topic. Before it happened to me, I’d always considered myself pretty pro about telling people I was pregnant early on… my close family and friends, at least. While I understand the reasons not to, in the event a miscarriage, which happens far more than most realise, I don’t think it’s something I could deal with without my besties.
But strangely, when I did finally get pregnant, for a long time I didn’t want to tell anyone.