I want to remember…

These are the days, yet I seem to forget them all too quickly, so I decided to start writing a regular series here called “I want to remember”. It’s my way of documenting the feelings, thoughts, and memories of the current moment for years to come.

I want to remember putting up Christmas decorations in our new apartment. A lot of firsts this year: first Christmas in this apartment, in a new city, as a family of four, with Ellen, and on our own (we won’t be travelling to Estonia as we usually do this year). And while I’m sad that we won’t get to spend Christmas with our family back home, I’m looking forward to spending it with out little family and people we care deeply about in our own home away from home.

I want to remember toddler Heli Mai. She’s getting SO big. I want to remember braiding her hair for the first time, making Christmas decorations with her, collecting pine cones in the park, and baking gingerbread cookies (more like me trying to stop her from eating all the dough before it got to the oven).

I want to remember my girls bonding during these first couple of months. Heli Mai is such a caring, wonderful big sister to Ellen. She’s the first to hear when Ellen wakes up or needs something, and quick to comfort her in any way she can. I want to remember how excitedly Heli Mai runs to our bedroom in the morning, looking for her baby sister, followed by kisses of course. And how Ellen’s face lights up as she recognises her big sister. Magic.

I want to remember becoming a mother of two, and how my world didn’t collapse, and I didn’t lose myself. In fact, I found even more of me, if that makes any sense to anyone but me. I want to remember feeling content and confident in my role as a mom, even if somedays I feel like I’ve failed. Tomorrow’s a fresh start.

I want to remember embracing my new body. I went through surgery just 2 weeks after Ellen’s birth to remove a big tumour from my left breast (thankfully, a benign one). I may have a Frankenboob, but I’m healthy, and that’s SO much more important that what one part of my body looks like.

I want to remember that it took me a week to publish this post. Me-time is scarce right now, but I know it’s just a season. This, too, shall pass, and before we know it, our girls will be playing together in their room while I sip a coffee and write a blog post on the couch. One day very soon. But for now, I’m taking in all the special moments in this season of life. And posting on IG, because it’s so much faster.

2 Under 2: Finding my footing

It’s now been 6 weeks since Ellen was born and I became the mother of two under 2-year-olds. This new series is where I’ll share my perspective of coping, surviving a thriving as a mom of 2 under 2.

Lately, my days feel like a rollercoaster. One moment, I feel like I’ve got this mom gig down. Like the moments when we’re playing in the girls’ room – me building a tower out of wooden blocks with Heli Mai while Ellen lays contently on the mattress, looking at all the colorful toys in her play gym. Or when I’ve managed to get both girls to bed before 8.30pm and no-one cried.

The next moment, I feel totally inadequate as a mom wondering how the hell I’m going to survive the day. Like when Heli Mai refuses to let me put on clothes so we can go out, and Ellen is super tired so she’s screaming at the same time, and I’m sweating because I already put my jacket on. Or when both girls cry during bedtime, and there’s only one me.

In those moments I feel so angry and frustrated. Not at the kids, but at myself. How can I not handle this? What am I doing wrong? And more importantly, what could I be doing better?

What I’ve realised, though, is that while there is definitely a harmful way of parenting, there definitely isn’t one right way to do it. One heated moment will not screw up my kids. I’m allowed to make mistakes and try again. And that to me is comforting.

Every day is a new chance to get it right. My girls are patient with me, allowing me to stumble in the dark until I find  the light switch. Until I figure out how to be a better mom to them.

All three of us are learning and growing every day. While Heli Mai is learning new words, and how to put her shoes on, and Ellen is learning how to smile and make funny faces, I’m studying the art of motherhood. We all still have a lot to learn.

Ellen’s Birth Story

Our baby girl Ellen was born on the 20th of September at 10:04 am. She weighed 3580g (exactly 100g more than her sister) and was 52cm tall.

It has been a challenging time for our little family after some unexpected medical issues had me hospitalised for more than 2 weeks. I’ll write a separate post about that, but today, I want to share Ellen’s birth story.

At 39 weeks

I was SO ready to have this baby in like mid August, and was kind of hoping she’d be a week or two early. Being 36 weeks pregnant and taking care of a 1-year-old is no joke. I literally counted down the days until my due date, as if the baby would magically pop out then. I had pretty strong Braxton-Hicks contractions in the last few weeks and a couple of times, I was almost sure I was in labor. But it never mounted to anything, so we kept on waiting.

The last few days felt endless. I went into bed on the 19th of September without the slightest hint of labor. No contractions, no gut feeling, nada. Rein had gone to pick up my mom from the airport. She was flying in to help take care of Heli Mai.

At 2.30am on the 20th of September, just one day shy of my due date, I jumped out of bed. My water broke. It was show time.

I went into labor at exactly the same time as with Heli Mai. That seems to be my magic moment. The beginning was so similar that I was already mentally preparing myself for the long wait that I was sure was to follow. But everything else was different this time.

I was different. My body was different. This time I knew what labor was like and my body knew what to do. I started having regular contractions right away and my water kept leaking, which was a sign that things were progressing as they should, unlike last time. I really felt like I was able to listen to my body and relax into the process. I ate soup and took a shower, scrolled through Instagram to keep my mind busy and timed my contractions every now and again.

At around 6.30am, as I was gripping the towel handle to manage the pain, I knew it was time to go to the hospital. We waited another 30 minutes until Heli Mai woke up, so we could say goodbye to her and she wouldn’t just wake up to being alone with Grandma and aunt Patu out of the blue. I was a little bit nervous about leaving her as she’d been especially clingy the last few weeks of my pregnancy, but it all went beautifully. As if she had understood we were going to get her baby sister.

As I was hugging her goodbye, I started crying. Everything would change in just a few hours. My baby would become a big sister! I would become a mom to another little girl. How I was ever going to fit all that love into my heart, I wasn’t really sure.

Heli Mai waved us goodbye and we walked the few hundred meters to the hospital. We arrived there at 7.30am and the rest was quicker than I could have even hoped for. I was dilated to a 5, which was a bit of a bummer. I was pretty sure we’d have hours of labor still ahead of us, but man was I wrong.

The CTG showed that the baby’s heartbeat was a little bit too fast and it turned out I had a fever, so they kept me on the CTG machine and set up an IV with fluids. I remember thinking “Great! Hooked to machines AGAIN!”. I was really looking forward to moving around during labor and listening to my body and finding the best position for me. You know, all that good stuff you’re told during pregnancy when you’re preparing for a natural birth.

The details are a little bit fuzzy, but there was an incident with me screaming in the toilet, followed by the sensation that I needed to push. The midwife checked again, and although I had progressed a lot, I wasn’t quite there yet.

At some point, I got offered an epidural, which I refused, and then some milder pain meds, which I took. I may be all about natural birth before the delivery, but midway through… the words “pain meds” sound like candy to a toddler.

The midwife suggested I try changing the position and laying on my side to help me get to a 10. Although that was way more painful than the position I was in, it did seem to work, and just a few contractions later (or so it seemed), I was ready to go. Honestly, the moment the midwife says “During the next contraction, I want you to take a deep breath and push as hard as you can.” is my very favorite moment of child birth. Because it means it’s almost over.

The pushing part was quick and easy (compared to just having contractions), just as with Heli Mai. Before I knew it, she was out.

The sense of relief and joy is indescribable. It makes up for all those months of nausea, exhaustion, having to pee every 5 minutes, feeling like an elephant, not being able to sleep on your belly, or your back, or even on your side… basically, not being able to sleep comfortably period.

Feeling my baby on my belly, not in it, is the best feeling in the whole world. I had forgotten how painful the contractions can be, and how it stings when the head comes out. And I will forget it again. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But that feeling of joy and relief, and LOVE. That I will never forget.

That’s my story. And her story.

She’s already a month old, and I can feel that her first year will fly past even quicker than with our first baby. Because now my days are filled with watching two little girls grow. Man, it’s the best! Seeing Heli Mai tote on her little sis, giving her kisses, being concerned about her crying, saying “Õte! Elle!” (“Sister! Elle!”) a million times a day, teaching her to high five, wanting to hold her and trying to put the pacifier back in her mouth gives me heart eyes every single time.

I get to see them become best friends for life. There’s nothing better than that!

I don’t know if or when we’ll have another kid, but for now, I’m glad to be done with pregnancy for a while. Ask me again in a year, though…

I want to remember…

These are the days, yet I seem to forget them all too quickly, so I decided to start writing a regular series here called “I want to remember”. It’s my way of documenting the feelings, thoughts, and memories of the current moment for years to come.

I want to remember how different this pregnancy is compared to my first. Back then, we took belly photos every 2-3 weeks, now I’ve thus far taken exactly one. Back then, I was so diligent to moisturise my belly every evening (and my husband would remind me when I forgot), but this time… I’m taking it easier. Once a week is pretty good, too, right?

I want to remember the little flutters that I felt so much sooner with baby girl #2. And the endless kicking, the hiccups, and the way my belly changes it’s shape when she starts rumbling around. She’s a firecracker and I can already tell she’ll challenge us in new ways.

I want to remember the little stabs into my bladder that feel like baby girl has a butterknife to play with inside there. I mean, how does she do that? Sometimes I wish I had a see-through belly, so I could look in and understand what different movements mean.

I want to remember playing the guessing game. Is that her leg? Arm? Bum? Did she kick me with her elbow right now? Or was it her knee? And how the hell does she reach so far to the side, when her body is clearly on the other side?

I want to remember how Heli Mai pats my belly when we talk about the baby. Also, she says “hello” to my boobs a lot… I wonder what that’s about?

I want to remember the hard bits, too. The exhaustion and the scary contractions after having to practically single parent Heli Mai for a while back in May. I doubt I want to ever raise a 12-month-old and be pregnant ever again. But, never say never, right? Thank goodness productions and school semesters have an expiration date.

I want to remember this time, right now. The last 2 weeks leading up to my due date. The time spent just the three of us, wondering how we’ll be able to add a new little one into the mix. The growing baby belly that’s getting oh-so uncomfortable. The wait for Heli Mai’s first babysitter to arrive, so that I can have Rein by my side for the delivery. Counting the days, the hours, the minutes in my head until my due date. I know it’s not a magic day when I’ll just wake up and go into labor, but it gives me hope that I’ll get to meet my little girl soon, and finally get to sleep without hoisting my gigantic belly from one side to another every time I need to turn. Well, obviously, I won’t get any sleep any time soon, but just the thought of one day having my body back to normal fills me with joy.

This is an incredibly challenging, yet exciting time for our family. We’re having a baby, moving and starting a new chapter in my husband’s career all at once. I try to keep the stress away by focusing on the things I can control. I want to remember packing up boxes, dreaming up the girls room, solving problems with the kitchen layout and making a decor budget for the new apartment.

Above all, I want to remember how special this time is – our last days as a family of 3. We can’t wait to add baby girl into our family, but these days are magic, too.

Photo by Taavi Paal

How to survive the first 3 moths of motherhood

how to survive the first 3 months of motherhood

In about two weeks, I’m back in the trenches of newborn-land. That unpredictable, crazy place where no sleep happens. Instead, there’s the postpartum emotional rollercoaster, the never-sleeping baby, lots of physical healing, and now, also a 16-month-old who’s trying to make sense of her changing world.

My first visit to the newborn-land was not easy. I spent the first almost 8 weeks of Heli Mai’s life single parenting her at my parents’ house while my husband finished off his semester 2000 miles away. My mom was a huge help during that very difficult time, but I still missed my husband so badly. I have so much respect for single moms after that (not that I didn’t before) and I can’t even imagine doing it all by myself for years.

Looking back, though, I realise that this time could have been so much easier and more enjoyable, if I had seen things a little differently. I wish I could go back and tell new mom Hanna what I know now.

  1. Listen to your instincts and intuition. While I was super confident before having the baby in my ability to care for her, I quickly lost that confidence when I was holding a crying baby who wouldn’t latch and everyone kept telling me what I should or shouldn’t do. I wish I had had the guts to tell them what I felt in my heart so strongly. In hindsight, I knew what was best for me and my daughter, but I didn’t trust myself enough. I’m not saying to ignore medical professionals or the well-meant advice of other moms, but voice your own thoughts first and make sure you are heard and seen. Because, after all, mother does know best.
  2. A crying baby is not the end of the world… although it can sure seem that way sometimes. Most of the time, though, they’re just trying to get what they need. So, be patient and calmly offer what she might need. Food, a clean diaper, sleep, connection, and love. Nine times out of ten, that will do the trick. And if not, keep calm and seek help. Sometimes, there can be other issues that are causing the crying. Heli Mai had reflux, so there was a lot of crying, very little sleep, and as a result, an overtired baby, who was very hard to settle. This is all a hindsight 20:20 thing, though, because back then, I took me weeks to figure it out, and I put some of the pieces together months later. For a very good overview of why baby’s cry and what we can do about it, read this.
  3. The sun will rise again. I felt the most lonely during night time, when I was walking round and round in my room with a crying baby who wouldn’t fall asleep despite my best efforts. She was overtired, and so was I. I think those were the times I cried the most in the beginning. What I’d love to whisper in my past self’s ear is that this too shall pass. After this night, there will be daylight again. The baby will sleep eventually and in a few weeks, she’ll have figured out this night and day thing.
  4. It’s just a phase. Every mom has probably heard this tip and given it to another mom, but while we’re in the trenches, it can be hard to remember. Everything is a phase with little ones. So, sometimes, the best you can do, is just ride out the waves.
  5. Know what to expect. I often wish I’d done more research on what to expect in the newborn phase (or even past that). Obviously, you can’t know everything and every baby is different, but what I learned is that doing a little reading upfront can ease a lot of fears and help figure out what’s not working before it drives you insane.
  6. Do things that make you feel normal. I struggled for the longest time to consolidate my past identity with my new identity as a mom. To be honest, I still do sometimes, but what has helped immensely is writing down when I feel most like myself and doing those things as often as possible. My life will never be the same, and neither will I, but motherhood should be an addition to who I am, not a substitute. Learned that the hard way.
  7. Ask for help. Can’t stress this enough! It does take a village to raise a kid, so don’t think you have to do it all by yourself. Ask your spouse, your family, or your friends to help out. It could be as simple as having someone to talk to when you’re covered in baby spit-up and in desperate need of a grown-up conversation. Or it could be a couple of hours of sleep or time to yourself. Have a friend do grocery shopping for you, or ask your spouse to take care of laundry. (Thanks, mom, for all those times you ran a load of dirty diapers at 10pm!)
  8. Relax into it. This is definitely the hardest to do, but makes all the difference. I still haven’t mastered it almost 16 months into motherhood, but those times when I’ve managed to slow down, breather and relax into it have been the best. Even when it happens as you’re trying to put your baby down and it’s been 50 minutes already. Especially then.
  9. Loosen up and let go. You’re bound to have spit-up on your shirt 24/7, your home will be messy, the laundry pile will be high, your hair will be messy and you may forget to brush your teeth. You could either stress about it, or just let it go. Don’t worry, one day you’ll discover you’ve worn the same shirt for the whole day. You will get back on track with your laundry. You most definitely will find time to brush both your teeth and your hair again. One day. I promise.

I felt I needed to write this post for myself. So I would remember to breathe and take it for what it is – a phase that passes all too quickly. The sleepless nights turn into nights with little sleep, and then to nights with enough sleep. Before I know it, I’ll have a smiling, crawling, drooling, grabbing baby. While the days go oh-so slowly, the weeks start flying by, and before I know it, I’ll be a mom of 2 toddlers.

And so will you.

If you’re down in the trenches right now, or about to become a new mom for the first (or third) time, I hope this post offered some support, understanding, and most importantly, a gentle reminder that the hard bits will pass, and the joy will only grow. You’ve got this, mama!

If you’ve got your own magic mantra or tip to share, I’d loved to hear it in the comments!

Heli Mai’s Birth Story

When I had Heli Mai over a year ago, I didn’t think I was ever going to share her birth story here. It felt too personal, too raw, and possibly, simply boring to anyone else but me and our family. But now that I’m about to have our second little girl, I feel like writing that story down before it’s all too fuzzy for me to remember.

You think you wouldn’t forget a 42 hour labor, but as time passes, the details get hazy and you realise that you’re brain is wired to forget. Those unimaginably painful contractions – you’re supposed to forget them. That desperation when NOTHING seems to be progressing – it’s all supposed to blur.

One of these days, I’ll look back at Heli Mai’s birth story and probably only remember the facts – she was born on the 21st of May, on a beautiful spring day, after a long and hard labor, but looking back, it all feels like just a blink of an eye.

This is probably a universal story, but my first experience giving birth was nothing like I had expected. Not that I knew what to expect, but I had read books on labor and prepared myself mentally as best I could. I wasn’t scared or anxious, rather excited and curious. Still, nothing could have prepared me for what it was really like.

My biggest fear during the last weeks of pregnancy was that my husband Rein was going to miss it. I was at my parents’ house in Estonia, he was back in Germany. We had taken our best guess, and planned on him coming over for 2 weeks from 5 days prior to our due date to a week over our due date. The baby and I were definitely under a deadline.

I was trying to channel to Heli Mai to make an appearance as soon as daddy got home. But, nah, she was in no hurry. So, my due date came and went without any sign of labor.

I got more an more nervous that Rein would have to fly back without meeting our baby girl, but I was still hopeful – we’ll make this happen, right, baby girl?

Then, 3am on the 20th of May, I woke up to the sensation that my water is coming. I jumped out of bed (quite literally) and sure enough, there was a little puddle of water on the floor. I woke up Rein and told him my water had broke. Poor guy, he was so sleepy, but so ready to jump up and start driving to the hospital.

Of course, there was no need to move that fast. I said to go back to sleep. I sat on the bed to time my contractions – at this point, they were very mild and pretty far apart, so I knew we still had plenty of time. In hindsight, I wish I could have just fallen back asleep, but I was too wound up for that.

I kept timing my contractions from time to time. They were regular and about 5-6 minutes apart, but so mild, I hardly thought I was even in labor. Isn’t it funny how labor apps let you rate the strength of the contractions, when as a first timer, you have NO idea what to base your judgment on? Looking back, I can only laugh at the contractions I labeled “medium” at that point.

At around 6am, I was anxious to get this show on the road, and as my contractions had been regular at a 4-5 minute interval, I thought we’d just drive to Tartu, the town the hospital was in. It’s a 50-minute drive and I knew from other moms that driving to the hospital with full blown contractions was the worst, so we had decided ahead of time to drive to town when I was still feeling ok.

My brother lives in that town, so we had planned to just spend the hours of waiting there. We grabbed some breakfast on the way and arrived at around 7.30am. I don’t think my brother appreciated the early wake-up, lol.

After that, it was just a waiting game of timing contractions and trying to get some sleep. Nothing had really changed by noon, so I called one of my best friends, who’s a Ob-Gyn to get some advice. She told us to go have a check up at the hospital no matter what once 12 hours had passed since my water broke.

So, at around 3pm, we made our first trip to the hospital. The did a CTG to check how the baby was doing and told us to go home and come back when the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. At this point, I had dilated only 1cm.

Back to the apartment we went to get some more sleep. I was still having regular contractions, but they were mild, so I could sleep. Honestly, I wish I would have gone for a long walk or done something else to speed up the process. I woke up around 7 or 8pm again, and felt the contractions getting a bit stronger. I joked that if this is what labor is like, it’s going to be a piece of cake. It was not.

By 11pm I had regular contractions at a 2-3 minute interval, so we drove back to the hospital. Another CTG and yet again – only 1cm dilation. Bummer! The midwife said we were welcome to stay in the hospital, if we wanted. I don’t know what I was thinking – I guess I hoped that staying in the hospital would magically speed up the process.

My contractions got stronger and stronger every hour, and I was certain we would have our baby girl by the morning. Alas, when the midwife came to check up on me around 3am, I was still only 1cm dilated. Really?? Can you check again? She told me someone would be back in 4 hours to check on me. 4 HOURS!!!???? Are you kidding me! At this point, I was uhh-ing and ahh-ing through my contractions, and trying to relieve the pain with a shower.

Another midwife came by after a few hours and offered to transfer us to a room with a tub, because the water really helped with the pain. I was more than happy to accept this offer, because quite frankly, the contractions hurt like hell. Little did I know how much further my pain tolerance would be pushed that day.

Time for another check up! I’ve got to be at least half-way dilated, right? Nope. Still at only 1cm. I started to cry. Hearing that I’d made no progress whatsoever during the last 8 hours felt incredibly discouraging. By 11am I had dilated 4cm. Finally, some progress, but nowhere near ready to push a baby out. My contractions were so painful and close together, that the tub wasn’t doing much for me anymore. I had reached the point of weird noises. You know, the part of labor, where you’re genuinely surprised by the sounds you’re making.

Progress was so slow, and SO painful that a couple hours later, the on-call doctor suggested doing an epidural. Something I had never planned on having. I was totally set on having a natural birth. But, the pain was unbearable, and there was no baby in sight, so I decided to take the epidural. Honestly, I felt bad about it at first. Like I had failed myself and the baby, but in hindsight, it was a smart move, because I still had 8 hours of intense labor ahead of me.

The moment the epidural kicked in was magical. It was the first time in hours that I wasn’t moaning and screaming every 2 minutes. This is also the part where I get blurry about time and details. I know I got like an hour or two of sleep with the epidural, and I know they checked my cervix at some point, but I don’t really remember what the numbers were. I also know that they attached the CTG to me again, and told me it was going to stay on for the whole duration of the labor, so they could monitor the baby more closely.

After a couple hours, the midwife told me they were going to stop administrating the pain killer, and would add in something to accelerate my contractions and hopefully speed up labor. Ugh oh! Since my water had only partially broken, the midwife broke the water in the hopes that it would help us along. The contractions went back to being SUPER painful and I went back to moaning and screaming, but it seemed to be working. At some point, I felt the urge to push, so we tried that, but it didn’t seem to help baby girl along, so the midwife told me to breathe through it. Easier said than done, lady!

A doctor popped in from time to time to check on me and the baby and at some point during the evening, they became concerned with the health of the baby, so they asked if I agree to attaching an electrode on the baby’s head so they could better evaluate her condition. Not ideal, but I knew it was necessary, so I agreed.

This was also the lowest point mentally for me. I could not understand why my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. I was so tired, in so much pain, and so ready to give up.

A little before 9pm, it was finally show time. Baby girl had moved down enough for me to really push. By this time, there were 2 doctors and a midwife assisting me. And less than 30 minutes later, Heli Mai was placed on my belly. I can’t remember much about these 30 minutes, to be honest, but as soon as she was out, my head got crystal clear. It was like the last 42 hours had been a dream that I just woke up from. I didn’t feel any pain, nor frustration, nor even relief. All I could feel was an overwhelming sense of needing to take care of my baby.

Turned out this was not the happy end for us yet. I could hold her only for a few minutes before they handed her over to daddy for some skin on skin so they could stitch me up. Turned out the midwife had done an episiotomy – I didn’t even feel it. Rein noticed that the baby’s breathing was strange and alerted the doctor’s. The embellical cord had been wrapped around her chest pretty tight, so the doctor took our baby for a check-up. Luckily, everything was ok, but they did give her some Paracetamol.

Finally, I was stitched up and my baby was back on my skin. That was the happy end I’d been waiting for. I was a little concerned with nursing, because of my inverted nipples (TMI, I know), but she took the breast like a champ. I just want to encourage anyone with the same problem to trust that you and the baby will figure it out. Like the midwife told us in the breastfeeding lecture – every breast and nipple is different, and the baby will adjust to what their mommy has. (I wish I had trusted my instinct more during that first week, but that’s a story for another day.)

One thing I will say is that I could not have done it without my husband by my side. His support is what got me through it. He told me to keep going and that I could do it. He injected hope into me when I had none left. He told me he felt so helpless and that he was genuinely afraid for me during some parts of the process, but he never showed it. Only after baby girl was finally out, did he show how he felt. It was like we had swapped places at that moment. I went from a crying, barely conscious mad woman to a calm and collected mama, and he went from a calm and collected husband, to a dad overwhelmed with emotion.

I’m only 3 weeks away from doing it all again. Hopefully, it will be a little easier this time around. As long as I have mu husband by my side, though, I think I can do it no matter what.

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