June 26, 2012

Hell on the Hill

Now that you’ve clicked on the link, hoping for some gore story or a detailed account of a disaster of some kind, I can tell you this was not as awful as it could have been. 

Last Sunday was Meije’s three month-“birthday”. Since it also happened to be 30°C with clear sky, it seemed like the perfect Sunday to do our first “real” mountain hike as a family of four. This is what we see from our house…

The Parmelan behind our house
This also happens to be the mountain Martin and I often used to run up to on those pre-Meije Saturday mornings where The-girl-who-help-us-staying-sane(-and-fit), namely Elodie the baby-sitter, came to look after Malo, and where we’re hoping dying to get back for weekend trail runs very soon. This seemed like two perfect reasons to choose the Parmelan as the destination for our first family-of-four hike. 

It did not start well. 

Since we had attempted to do that same hike last weekend only to bail out when we realised it had taken us so long to get ready that it was time for lunch, we got more organised this time, packing as much as we can on Saturday night. That’s when problems actually started. You know you can forget about light, alpine-style ascents when equipped with a toddler and a baby. But alpine-style notwithstanding, how are you still supposed to pack everything you need when one parent will be carrying kid n°1 in a backpack, the other will be carrying kid n°2 in a sling, and there none of you can therefore carry any proper backpack? And thank God for inventing breastfeeding because at least I did not have to think about packing a baby bottle, a container with solution milk, water to transform said solution milk in something edible by a 3-month old, extra milk in case she is unexpectedly hungry again, therefore extra water, etc, etc… So, despite our Saturday night pre-packing, and despite Malo’s help in trying for a reasonably early start by waking up at 6.15am, it was not so early when we finally had managed to fit nappies, pads, spare clothes, wind-proof jackets, water and food-but-only-for-Malo-because-there-is-not-enough-space-to-take-fod-for-everybody. Finally we set of. By car, because it will still be a while before we can do with the kids the 1100m climb that is involved if leaving from the house, and we therefore had chosen to start from a hut half way up. 

And that’s where problems carried on. Because Parmelan being one of the mountains overlooking Annecy and parking space being available half-way up, it (unfortunately) attracts a big crowd on sunny summer days, even the usually-does-not-do-sports-unless-one-counts-watching-soccer-in-front-of-TV-as-a-sport crowd.  That means we found ourselves, 10 minutes after leaving home, stuck behind a massive SUV on the steep and narrow dirt road leading to the hut, said SUV being itself stuck because of two extra long rows of cars parked on both sides of the dirt road, preventing it to move further. Had we been able to do a U-turn at that point, I think we would have driven back home. But, as you’ll guess from what I said above, U-turns were not an option.  So we’ll try and be patient (some of us managing better than others) and not bitch against fat couch potatoes with big SUVs (some of us not managing that part at all), and by the time we managed to park, it was 11am, hence the perfect time to start a hike with a small child and a baby, no shade and 30°C.
In the end, it was all worth it.

We saw cows with their bells “singing” (Malo). Cows are very big, literally and figuratively, for Malo, these days.
We passed by disabled people being carried by volunteers on plastic chairs fixed on wooden stretchers, so that they could hike to the top, which made us say we should also try and help next year, because everybody (bar fat coach potatoes with SUVs) should have the right to experience the magic of the mountains.

We saw our house from the top, or rather, Martin and I saw it and Malo, being a good sport, pretended he did because his poor parents clearly thought that was a very big deal indeed. 

Our house is at the right of my belly (and 1100m below) ... but you'll have to take my word for it.
We also saw trail runners. One of them, thin as a stick and wearing plain, grey-ish running gear which had seen better days, was running up effortlessly. Others wore spotless bright trail running shoes (which, given how much rain we had lately can only mean they were brand new) and shinny t-shirts with the latest [fill whatever you want here: as long as it sounds very complicated and does not mean anything, it will do] technology. We could not say how fast these ones could be, since they were walking. One thing we could say though is that we know in which category we see ourselves. Call us running snobs if you wish, it is still better than being a Salomon walking ad. 

Malo was super excited about being here, on the mountain he can watch every day from the house or from the car coming back from day care, and whose name I made sure he knows perfectly already. He walked (not all the way though!) like a real trooper, climbed every rock who happened to be on his way, and a good deal of the others, and fell asleep in the backpack on the way back seconds after having said he was not tired and did not want to take a nap when we would get home.

A big and a little M...
 Meije slept the whole way, waking up on top only to be fed and survived nappy changing in the cold mountain wind. Some people were clearly worried she might get oxygen deprived, but seeing the colour of her cheeks when we got back to the hut, I think there just worried too much - and I mean, we’re respectable parents who took their girl to 1800m-Parmelan, not (yet) to Mount Everest.

Martin stopped complaining (at least for that day) about not doing enough exercise since he seemed to have found carrying 15kgs-Malo in the 2.5kgs back-pack (with additional 2l-hence-2kg of water on the way up) for a bit chunk of our 4 hour hike of our hike rather challenging was on the quads. 

As for me, I got it all: a nice day out, the three loves of my life with me, my first proper hike since Meije’s birth. And a migraine on a way back. That must have been at the thought of the fat coach potato with a SUV.

... and my two little Ms!

June 25, 2012

The end of an Era

No, I am not talking about that time where I had abs (although I could, because this time also seems to have ended for good).

I am talking about the end of the time of my baby still being a baby. At least Baby N°1.

The past few weeks have been challenging on the Mother Hen front. Ten days ago was the summer party at Malo’s Crèche (the day care centre), and the last one we would be attending. And I cried. The images of almost three years of my life, of our life, went by in front of my eyes. How I was crying my head off (yes, this is becoming a recurring theme on this blog since I became a mum – I could never pull it as a tough investment banker anymore even if I had to) the first day Malo went to day-care or the first week (and many others) when he started going full time.  How amazingly gifted my son proved to be, his first (and following) drawings works of art proudly kept in a file or framed and hanged on the wall (but I had an excuse: the colour scheme matched that of the living room). The relationship built with the ladies saints looking after Malo and his friends, who put the meaning of “dedication” to a whole new level, regularly calling at work to say “I have noticed it was a bit hard for you to leave Malo this morning (and I thought I had hidden it all), but don’t worry, he’s right now in front of my eyes, having a lot of fun, and  he got plenty of cuddles”.

It has been so special too to see Malo changing from a baby to a toddler to a little social animal with his group of pals.  Talking proudly about “mes copains” (“my friends”). Requesting to invite said “copains” at home… only to cry because he then has to lend his bike – I can’t blame him though, some things should not have to be shared.  Coming home with new words he does not understand the meaning of (not that they always have a meaning, mind you), but which must be cool since his friends in the know (ie those with big sisters / brothers) shout them 24-7 (and was tempted to complain some of these words were really stupid, before I realised some of them I was already saying with unlimited bliss almost 40 years ago… good things often stand the test of time).  Talking about “Cars Mc Queen” even though we do not have TV and he has no clue what this is all about – I must admit to having since caved in to the Cars craziness and bought Cars boxer shorts, and am not even (too) ashamed about forgetting for once about my “no Disney-or-what-have-you-commercial-crap-in-this-house” principle, seeing the joy on Malo’s face when he got them.

In September, my baby is going to school. I know, this is school, not some hardcore military camp. I know, school for 3-year olds still involve a lot of fun things, playing, singing, drawing, even having nap times (although on naps being a fun good thing I am sure Malo would beg to differ). I know that even learning things can be fun (if well taught, and physics aside, but maybe that’s just me, and there won’t be any physics just yet anyway).  But school is also about having 25 kids for 1 teacher in the classroom, not 15 kids for 3 ladies as in day-care, so I am not sure cuddles will stand high on this lady’s agenda. It is also about discipline, about sitting, standing, being silent, answering, drawing, running ( yes, even running, I am sure) only when the teacher says so. And although I am all in favour of discipline, this should not necessarily be 8 hours a day, 4 days a week. Not for my baby… and not when it involves limiting his totally understandable love of running, that goes without saying.

To make things even tougher on Mother Hen, Meije will start going to day-care 3 days a week pretty much on the same day Malo will start school. And here it looks like I will definitely prove wrong those who say that separation from your baby is easier with the second one. Believe me, that’s bulls***.  As far as I am concerned, I feel the urge for crying when I think about my girl and I being apart as much as for I did when Malo was her age. And since there is no plan for another kid, I also admit to a fair amount of nostalgia thinking about the time as a full-time mum with a tiny baby that will soon be gone and never be again (although yes, I know, she only starts in September so these are not over yet. Call me a masochist… and you’ll be right as this blog has already often shown).

In other (not directly related, although…) news, I am still not running (much), but as there is definitely some improvement, so it could just be that the end of the “me as the mother of two babies” era will not also be that of the “running mom” one.  In the meantime, I’ll take my (relative) inactivity as a reminder of how awful my poor little boy will soon feel when regularly denied the fundamental right to run whenever he feels like it.

June 13, 2012

Same Same but Different

"Same, same, but different", often say the Thais in their colourful English (says the girl who does not pretend for a single second her own mastering of the English language is perfect).

Same same but different is a bit how I feel when comparing Malo's and Mieje's births and,the first months of their life.

The birth - Same, same...
Meije announced herself in ways which made me think "well, well, well, that feels familiar", followed by "it seems that, this time again, I won't be doing things in the "right" order".  As for her brother, the sequence of events went like this :
1. waters broke in the middle of the night, long before I could start feeling the slightest contractions.
2. no pain whatsoever, but heading off to hospital because that's what you do when said waters break.
3. Pretty much no dilatation for days. OK, hours, in fact. But trust me, hours feel damn long when it's the middle of the night, you're lying on the uncomfortable bed ever, you have no idea how long you're here for, it is boiling, you cannot open the window because some medical staff are smoking right below your window. I mean, come on, this is a hospital, this is even the bloody (ah ah) maternity ward, the nurse has just performed a test to check your exposure to tobacco, and, although you have sworn you don't smoke, never did, has lectured you 'tobacco-is-evil' style, and medical staff is smoking less than 3 metres from you and the baby you're about to give birth to? This must be a joke. (End of rant)

However I knew better this time than thinking "oh joy, I am about to give birth and it is not even remotely painful", because, from (admittedly limited) previous experience, no labour pain = no good news. First time round, from the moment we reached the hospital, everything that could go wrong did - not dilating fast enough, not contracting regularly enough, baby not dealing well at all with whatever contractions I had - to the big finale, a pretty traumatic emergency C-section.

... But different?
There was however no reason to panic, since, this time, there would be no room for uncertainty. A C-section had been planned for the following week, since Meije was still high, and my pelvis "not the size of a cathedral". It would then just be done a week earlier than planned, right?


Quite the same same old story, actually...
I thought I had, this time, everything under control, which, if you know me, was a huge relief. OK, a C-section was not the dream birth, but at least, this one was planned, so there would be no drama (just a little fear, getting bigger as the date was getting closer, about the anaesthetics and that, this time round, the days post c-section may be quite painful). Everything under control then... except that the on-call ob-gyn was on a mission as soon as she saw me, decided as she was to convince me I may be able to give birth naturally and should at least give it a try.  Hence a huge dilemma : a c-section, no unknown, but the certainty I would never know what it is like to give birth naturally, something I had wanted so badly for Malo. Or deciding to give natural birth a go, to the risk of ending up, many hours later, which could be hours living with intense fear for my baby, with a c-section anyway.  Bottom line is, once again, things were not at all happening the way I thought they would.  Will that teach me a lesson and help me not always being the quintessential control freak? I guess not.

... although with a different - Thank God - ending
In the end, Meije's birth was different from Malo in that she finally was born naturally, some 22 hours after we had arrived to the hospital, she handled the birthing process like a rock star and I was beaming, as I was holding my little girl on the belly after a pretty long expulsion (what an ugly term to describe a baby coming to the world. I mean, I was not always a happy pregnant chick and quite pleased my girl decided to show up almost three weeks early, but still, couldn't we use a term which sounds less like we're getting rid of some illegal immigrant?).  I tell you, having this little bloody, sticky, screaming thing lying on you minutes after she was in your belly beats being taken away in the recovery room, knowing your baby is alone in an ugly plastic box, anytime.

As for the rest...
Apart from their birth story, Malo and Meije have a lot in common. They both made most people wonder how their diminutive mom had managed to give birth to two pretty big babies. Some - including the ob-gyn, even asked how I had hidden it so well, but here, I would beg to differ. I mean, haven't they seen that huge belly of mine in the weeks before giving birth? Don't they think I looked enough like a whale as it was?). So far, they have also both been two rather easy-going babies : Malo started sleeping through the night aged five weeks, Meije aged 8 weeks (I still consider myself more than happy with that, and I am sure most moms would agree I should!), they both seem to find Maman's milk to their taste, having gained 2 kgs in the first two months of their lives. And if Meije has been beaten by her big brother by a couple of weeks on the "sleeping through the night" front, she was ahead by two months when it came to find her thumb and soothing herself with it : she found that miracle device of hers aged two months, which prompted the nurse to say babies usually did not do so before they were three months old, and me to feel very proud... although I may come to regret this later, when we'll start getting bills from the orthodontist.

To end this "same, same but different" account, I should mention the biggest difference of them all, which has actually more to do with me than with my offsrpings : post-partum running.

Hold on with me for a few minutes while I cry my head off.

OK, I am back.

Post-partum absence of running, should I have said. Unless you count 2 min running - 1 min walking, this for 40 min at the most, as proper running, which I surely do not.

That's my little ones being taken for... a walk. Yes, a walk. Not a run, not even a job. A walk.

Why that is so is for another post (and, maybe, I will manage to write that one without waiting another two months), but lets say the "natural birth" and "pretty long explusion" mentioned earlier explain most of it. Does the above mentioned little, bloody, sticky, screaming thing on my belly makes up for it? Sure it does. Kind of. But if I could have both the natural birth and the back-to-running-straight-after-birth, I would take it, anytime. I guess that's what the midwife calls my "Little house on the prairie" tendencies (what, we cannot be living in a perfect world where everybody is nice, things always end for the best... and I am running as much as I want? Sigh...).  Quest for perfection on earth... no doubt that trait of mine is one that will for ever be found in the "same same" category.