Last winter I expected Zoé to get sick. I imagined that going from African dry, hot days and cold, dry nights to a typical European winter of dry/wet/windy days and freezing nights would be a real shock for a 6 months’ old system.

So we built up our outings from a short 5 min walk on 01.01.12 to a longer 10 min walk on 02.01.12 etc. Once, she seemed to take it well, we started to go to play groups so she could gradually come in contact with Europa’s typical winter viruses and diseases. She hardly got a cold during the whole of last winter.

Now, comes winter 2012-2013 and she has gotten one thing after the other. It first started with a mild fever for a day or two that was really easy to control and her behaving rather normal. So I did not think much of it but there was this strange urine smell every time I would change her nappy. Because, we were to have her 18 months pead visit, I got an appointment only to find out she had a urinary tract infection, that already found its way up the kidneys (pyro-nephritis)…. bad, dangerous stuff. What I thought would be a short routine visit turned out to be a full and intense afternoon of urine samples, blood samples, emergency ultrasounds and 2 weeks of strong antibiotics. The strong meds cured the infection but also made her more “unwell” than the disease itself. Less energy, no appetite, clingy etc.

Then, a week after, we left to visit my family in law for Hanukkah for a week. DH felt sick as he woke up the first morning. 4 days flu. Zoé didn’t seem to get it (she behaved like sick because of the antibiotics anyways but did not develop fever etc like DH). I felt flu-ish-bad for 1 day.

She stops the antibiotics, eats a bit better. … We come back to Switzerland and 2 nights later she feels burning hot. I measure her fever: 35.9°C. “The thermometer must be broken” I thought. The next day she behaves like her usual self so I forget everything about fixing or buying a new thermometer until the following night, when she feels burning hot again (I of course feel very irresponsible). Comes Saturday morning with the resolution to go to the chemist and have a) this fairly new and very expensive ear-thermometer fixed and b) a real measure of her temperature. Chemist lady did not want to change the thermometer (still under guarantee) and comes up with a bullsh*t story that because Zoé’s left ear measures 38.2°C and the right ear only 37.0°C, said (broken) thermometer is in perfect working condition but that the poor child probably has an ear infection and that we should quickly leave her store, (with broken device) and speed up to the emergency room instead of wasting time doubting the quality of her (bad) merchandise. Guess what ? Not only did we do exactly that, we also bought a new, even more expensive, digital frontal thermometer !!! (Not only feeling irresponsible but now also over-emotional)

We arrive at the pead that stood in that Saturday and of course, we tell him, that our daughter probably has an ear infection. He measures her fever: 39.2°C. There goes the Chemist’s theory on the thermometer not being broken. He checks, scrapes and confirms that she not only has 1 ear infection, but a double ear infection. There goes the Chemist’s theory on hot ear = infected ear. A new course of antibiotics, firm resolution to never, EVER go to that chemist again but happy that her bullsh*t urged us to the Doc, we come home, try to make our now burning hot and miserable toddler feel a bit better. We give her the first (huge) dose of antibiotics that, judging by the look on her face, seems to taste very bitter. We push, push and push the substance inside her miserable (full of little cracks due to a candida infection that flares up under (previous) antibiotic treatment and weak immunity) little mouth, promising that it is good for her and that she will feel better (I, now feeling, not only irresponsible, very-over-emotional but mostly and plainly : “a lyer”…..).

She gets better. We relax. For. 24. hours.

After that, she vomits her antibiotics. She is unable to calm down (read wired) till 23:30 at night and fever slowly but surely surging up to 41°C at Christmas Night. She was anxious. Chanting a mantra. Boiling. Contracting her little fists in cramp-like movements. I was terrified especially when the fever did not go down despite the panadols, ibuprofens etc that we would give her, every 4 hours. While my DH called the hospital’s emergency, I opened her PJ’s, the window, cooled her hands and feet with cool cloth, prayed that the fever would go down …. especially when all we could hear on the telephone’s other end sounded like : “all our lines are actually occupied…” !! Occupied, on Christmas Night ?!

After 30 or 45 min, the fever started to subside to a “stable” 39.5°C…..

We got to the Clinic where, lucky us, our usual Pead was on duty on Christmas Day. He changed her meds, gave her penicillin and was worried she had a beginning pneumonia cause the strangle whistle like sounds she made when breathing. He asked us, to update him in 24 hours.

1 hour after giving her the penicillin, things were looking much better. She was not her usual self, but more playful and her fever was down. We update the Pead 24 hours after and he told us to continue the treatment for another week.

Things looked like sorted. We relax. For. 24. hours.

Fever rising again. Climbing to 39.5°C. We go back to the Pead. Make X-ray of her longs. Take a blood sample and a sample of the mucus in her noose.
X-ray shows that her longs are ok. Mucus shows that she now (also?) has the flu. We stop penicillin. Go home. Be sick. Keep her fever in control. I now also got flu. We slept. And sweated. And drunk water. And slept. And got better. Together.

This experience left me wondering:

1) is this how young children make their anti-bodies ? would it then not be better to give them less strong doses of antibiotics to stimulate their own bodies to “do the job” and create strong immunity ?

2) it all happened exactly 1 year after we met/came home. could her body now finally relax and let her guard down ? is it a way her body expresses trauma that could be associated with abandonment/adoption/radical change ?

Would love to read your opinions, experiences and views …. Please share.

dear readers,

it has been soooo long ago since i blogged. not that i don’t want to. not that i do not have enough to blog about but time is what i am short of.

never could i have imagined that being a SAHM would be so busy, sometimes even stressful ! so here is an attempt to update you but the longer the time gap, the more difficult to re-start so let’s start with pictures which, i believe, illustrate how time has flown by this last year.

referral picture :referral picture

today’s lively toddler:

today's lively toddler

as you can see Zoé is blooming. she is doing really, really, really well. she is 18 months and is picking up a lot of new words. sometimes even making short sentences like “mama douche” or “aba est là” (daddy is here) in both english and french. she is very at ease moving and lately also wants to see the world from everywhere she can climb on. she is very sociable and expressive. she has lots of energy and determination. she is intelligent and quick to learn. she is a happy child !

she is now ready to go half days to a kindergarten but there is no place so we are on a waiting list. to compensate the lack of stimuli coming from other children, i take her to playgroups and activities every day. like steiner school’s playgroup on monday, movement/dance on wednesday and babygym on thursday. when we have nothing planned i take her to playgrounds where she meets other kids and lately, because of the bad weather, she “invites” her friends over or we are invited to go and play at her friends’ homes. so full of life and joy.

our days are all different and at the same time follow more or less the same “schedule”: waking up, change / potty or diaper free for a while, washing up night’s feeding bottles and preparing breakfast, dressing up, going out to buy groceries and stop to play on the way back while i drink a coffee and chat with the other parents who happen to be there too, back home, snack and getting ready for nap, sitting in the sling/ergocarrier and chanting lullabies while i hang laundry, napping for 1:30-2 hours while i: meditate, prepare lunch, do,do again and re-do piles of never ending paperwork, make phone calls. then lunch together, go out to play, have fun, be silly and get back home by the time it gets dark, then Zoé watches TV with DH or skypes to our family overseas while I prepare dinner, bath, food, sleep.

written like this, it all seems so perfectly organized and running smoothly but don’t be fooled. i wonder if it has to do with the way i parent but very often i feel:

– my home has turned in a sweet mess, more mess and chaos (toys all over, cellphone in the oven, shoes in the bathtub, house keys in the cat food ….

– (almost) complete loss of control over my life; not able to plan anything ahead, not a single moment to doze off or dream away a bit, no private space but little hands grabbing all my things (even putting things up does not help any longer since she climbs on chairs)

– (almost) complete loss of control over my daughter’s life; how can you keep her mouth open and shovel food inside if she does not want to eat, how can you make her sleep when she is not into it ….

– being overwhelmed by strong emotions of love, or, less nice, frustration or, even less nice, anger followed by loosing temper and shouting … (read adult version of temper tantrum😉

I wonder if it has to do with the way i parent, but very often i feel like a bit of a failure as a parent … also i noticed that i never get feedback on my parenting or give feedback on someone elses. maybe it is just that everybody struggles and that raising a little person is just no exact science but one of trial and error, good intentions and silly “mistakes”. So, in the loneliness of doubt and in the glimpses of Zoé’s many smiles, I dare hoping that her good progress and happiness are the real measure, the only that really counts ?

we have a good life and although it is intense without breaks (not even family where i could “drop” her off for an hour to go to dentist, Dr, massage, a coffee….), i feel so complete and deeply happy with it all. a labour of love. it does make so much sense to bring up kids. it really is a blessing to have a child teach us so many life lessons. (i am sorry for my infertile friends who just had to read those last lines, as, deep down in their broken hearts, they know it all but …. so please keep struggling to finally realize your dream. it is more than worth it!!).

i hope to get to blog more in 2013, i hope to go back to ethiopia to adopt a second baby (and third i wish, but DH is not (yet?) agreeing) by 2014 and in the meantime, may we grow our dreams and children with Love and Divine Inspiration.

Yes Zoé turned One, that was on May 27nd.

And today, One year ago, on June 17nd, I had sent in our file to the social worker to be transmitted to Ethiopia.
And today, This year, we had a meeting with the few families we met in Ethiopia who had also adopted their babies last December.

What a long way we have come. Zoé brings sooo much Joy to us, to our families. We have changed much since we know her and she has changed soo much since we first met her in the orphanage. She has caught up the 50 percentile growth curve on weight and length and her head circumference is now above the 50 percentile. She walks well, and learns new tricks everyday sometimes even one in the morning and a newer one by the evening.

She is sociable and at the same time very attached to us. She is easy to take out since she eats and falls asleep in “unfamiliar” places. I believe she feels secure and that makes me happy.

Today, I came back from that meeting with more confidence; I must do something right for her to bloom. Sometime, most of the time actually, parenting is really strange in that you almost never have a feedback on what you do. Any other activity you do regularly like e.g. a job or sport … you have systems of evaluation, competition or approvals in which you get feedback, but in parenting, you just do your thing, trial and error, reading one book and being convinced by one way of “doing it” just to be completely confused again because in another book you read the exact opposite. ….

Today, I came back from that meeting, with such a desire to welcome another baby in our family. Maybe because, seeing all the faces we met there in Ethiopia brought back the beautiful and happy memories of when we adopted Zoé. I would love to experience this again. Zoé does make me complete and happy and in my eyes, she is perfect and at the same time, when I put away the clothes that she outgrew, I cannot imagine that “this was it”. That I will not have another little baby, it feels like it was just too short, especially compared to the years and years of trying to build a family.

On the other hand, we heard that our social worker does not take on new files and that Ethiopia has really slowed down in processing adoption files. … I feel truly blessed to have become Zoé’s mum, blessed that for once, for her, we did the right thing at the right time, and hope that all those desiring a child so intensely will know the same Joy.

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I love to hear the sound of  those little feet walking, exploring, running after the cat.

 

My last post, was about love and the nice “things” we pass on, knowingly or even un-knowingly, to our children. But what about the “things and behaviors” that are less nice ? It seems like before I had children I swore I would not reproduce some aspects of my parents parenting style, but in the sweet mess of day-to-day life with a small child, it seems stronger than myself and before I know it, I just reproduce that behavior.

Let me give you an example. Today I needed to go visit my accountant for my tax declaration. Our meeting was set 3 pm. So I got all my papers ready by this morning (while having eyes all over the place keeping my LO safe) and I had all the napping, changing, feeding finished on time, to get there on time. But as I was pushing the stroller towards the tram halt hoping Zoé would fall asleep for a nap leaving the accountant and me time to go through the paperwork, I remembered that I would not be able to take the stroller up (only stairs and no elevator) and so decided that once I was on the tram I would transfer Zoé, who was still fully awake, from the stroller to the ergo-carrier so she could be on me at the accountant should she fall asleep.

I climb on the tram and “park” Zoé’s stroller next to a stroller where a 2 month old baby was crying, not really loud but loud enough to intrigue Zoé. So I adjust the position of her stroller so she can see the baby and tell her about that baby and his mama etc. Then, I set myself on a chair and start the transfer from stroller into ergo by then strapped on my hips. Zoé is snaking in all direction making the transfer rather difficult/awkward/dangerous and at the same time making all kinds of noises. (She usually prefer carrier over stroller). I am probably a bit stressed out by then, hoping we make it at the accountant in time, that all docs are OK, that Zoé will fall asleep or be quite enough to let us finalize the tax declaration etc. So after a couple of minutes of snaking and making noises, that I now experience as “not being collaborative”, I tell her firmly but gently, “enough now“. The other mother, tells me “oh she is probably just “speaking” to us. To me it sounded rather like moaning though.

There and then it hit me that I was exactly reproducing my mother’s behavior, using the exact same words in similar situation. …. Even though my “enough now” was directed to Zoé’s being “uncollaborative”, she may probably get it like the other mother got it, like I probably got it when I was a kid,  that she should just “shut up”.

So it made me think about :

1) How to break reproducing behavior I did not appreciate as a child ? First thing it seems, is to become conscious about it. Then, to remain conscious about it in the day-to-day, life despite the many demands we respond to. Challenging but possible I guess !

2) Putting attention to express myself clearly. Rather say something like :”Zoé, please stop snaking around so much. We should get you installed into the carrier comfortably and safely before getting off the tram soon and then you can have a nice nap as you like …. ” instead of the vague “enough now”. Same thing, being conscious about and learning to speak with the other party in mind. Challenging again !

3) Setting limits. I find this topic a bit confusing. Parents and educators speak about “setting limits” and I wonder how to do that. Is it something you carefully think about before hand. Something you discus let’s say with your partner and then you try ways that work to have those limits respected ? I can understand it about e.g security. My husband and myself both decided, together, we would not let Zoé come in the kitchen on her own. So now we repeat, repeat, repeat and even if she is still crawling in the kitchen, she looks at me and expects (?) me to tell her :”Zoé, you are not allowed to come alone in the kitchen“.

But what about setting “improvised” limits during that tram ride for instance. Even if I did not want to “set a limit” on her “speaking”, if speaking it was,  I would very much prefer she stops “moaning”, if moaning it was and I definitely want her to be safely installed in the carrier. With those goals in mind, perhaps “enough now” is setting a limit, albeit the limit of my own limited patience.
Is setting a limit, an action you do for the child’s well-being/safety etc, or it is something from your own limitations, or a bit of both ? Like you can afford some cool stuff for your kid, but you can not afford ànd cool clothes, ànd the most expensive stroller ànd the newest toys ànd the biggest teddy bear, ànd the most prestigious school just because your financial resources are limited. Or like, because we feel we can keep our child safe in most parts of the flat, but that the kitchen holds too many danger zones; because we are limited in our ability to keep her safe in the kitchen, we limit her. Is that setting limits ?

Sorry if it all sounds very abstract (and boring). But if it is familiar to you, please share your insight/experience/advice ….

is the one she uses to call me : “Mamma”.

the first time the sound reached my ears, I thought I had imagined it or that it was just an unintentional “mammmma-mmmmamaa-mmammma” sound. but when zoé repeated it in context, i knew we had reached. not reaching a final destination but that we reached each other. it felt like a long and lonely journey had finally ended and a new one has started. one we are walking together. sometimes i lead her and often times she shows me the way.

being called mamma may feel so obvious for many but for me it feels like a blessing, like a sacred mantra that reminds me to surrender to God and the Universe. i do not know what it must feel for her to have a mamma ? most important is that she knows she has someone she can call mamma.

it started a month ago, when zoé came down with a cold. we spent a couple of difficult nights together and at the same time, it is in those challenges that closeness grows. being a little one’s “everything” is a nice feeling; it gives instant purpose to one’s existence and it is flattering to be so much desired. but it is also a HUGE responsibility. a great challenge. day-after-night-after-day-day-in-and-night-out, her call for mamma at any time, has to be answered as good as can be. … and what if i fail to provide security and love and care and respect and at the same time, i know, i un-avoidably fail to provide. i guess in that margin between failure and perfection is a warm, authentic and safe place where we grow to become ourselves, where we get a chance to pass on that love we have received when we too believed our main care giver was our “everything”.  FRom that place, I thank you my dear mother for all what you have given me when you were still alive, and because today, I pass it on to zoé, you remain alive, through me in her.

 

 

 

It is freezing cold here in Europe. No wheather to go out with a baby, until really necessary.

So there they are lying on the sofa, my husband, daughter and cat, breathing at their very own rhythm, like motherhood I guess. I can not think of that moment I read about from other moms, where they suddenly felt their baby’s mother, for me it was more like a process. In fact, I felt like a became a mother while still trying to conceive. I remember my husband telling me ” you have really won your title of motherhood” after one of our many miscarriages. So, I do not know if other woman and man also feel that motherhood is something you have to “win” but when we arrived in Ethiopia, that same feeling came back again.

As soon as I got Zoé’s referral, something felt strangely familiar and yes, even before meeting her in real, I had no doubt that she had to be my daughter. It was as if all the struggles, doubts, and failed cycles endured for years suddenly became one big, obvious and plain fact. as if everything had to be the way it was. it was a powerfully positive feeling.

So we, arrived, in the orphanage, I took Zoé in my arms and everything felt very right but in front of the skilled nannies, think genuine “african mamas”, I understood I still had my stuff to learn. I mean, those endless, practical aspects of motherhood; the feeding, diapering, burping, dressing, undressing, bathing, carrying, worrying,  ….

It was an ambiguous feeling, something felt very right and familiar and something felt very foreign and awkward at the same time. Normally, I am rather withdrawn and in a new situation I tend to observe first and once I feel I know how to do, I’ll start doing. This time it was different, I felt I had to do before really knowing, perfectly, how to do. Something  told me, I had to take over, taking care of Zoé, even if my grasp was not firm and my gestures awkward, I had to “claim”. I guess, what I felt, was a bond between Zoé and her 2 personal nannies. Even though it is a very good thing that she benefited from personal care and attention, I felt this bond had to be broken first in order to start our mother-daughter relationship.

It was very trying. Dh and me both got sick. Imagine spending the whole day with 20 babies, all having diarrhea, coughing and running noses. Imaging, being in a foreign environment, speaking different languages, trying to take care of one baby as an unexperienced new mum and at the same time, having 2 or 3 babies, hanging on your legs, moaning and crying to be picked up, with eyes full of sadness, waiting, for their turn to have parents; to be carried around, be taken care of by unexperienced yet loving hands.

After a couple of days already, Zoé changed behavior, the withdrawn small baby we had first met a couple of days before now  started to make big conversation while we would spend time changing her. As if she was telling me with her happy “gagaa, dadadadaaaa” that she appreciated our presence and care. I guess from there our relationship started to grow. And as we started to bound, I could feel her nannies, letting go, knowing that there now was someone to take over their “role”. I must say that besides being very good at their profession they were also soulfully dedicated to their job. beautiful people.

 

After we passed our second court appointment and had zoé full-time with us, we would sometimes go back to the orphanage to buy more milk or to meet with other parents. Zoé would be on my arms, tucking her little face in my arms like a shy girl when her earlier care givers would try to make her smile. This would of course make me happy and confirm the emerging feelings, strong feelings, overwhelmingly strong feelings of mother love.

Motherhood has something very rewarding; it makes you run all day and walk around a big part of the night, but just that one smile and all feels so very right. Oddly enough that same thing called motherhood can at other times make you feel the most stupid and inadequate person on earth, but then just that one smile or that one worried look in her eye when i go out of her sight is reassuring each others hearts.

So far, i really love being zoé’s mum, every evening i think back about the day we spent together and it makes me smile. a happy smile, and with a light heart i realize i love her even more than the day before, and marvel at how much more this love can grow ?

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