Wednesday, April 30, 2014

La vie en Rose (Pink para La vuelta al mundo)

This month for the photographic game " La vuelta al mundo"*,  Jackie challenged us to find pink everywhere: whether in gardens, still life or urban environments, the color had to flood the image. One of the things I love the most about spring in these northern latitudes is that after the long, dark winter we get to witness nature coming back in its full force, an explosion of colors. It's almost as if there was a giant party and confetti was thrown all over the place. Here is my contribution to this month's photographic challenge.  It got me thinking of one of my favorite movies ever, Jeux d'enfants (Love me if you dare) as they play "La vie en Rose" over and over again. (If you haven't watched it, I dare you to! Cap ou pas cap?)

*If you don't know what I am talking about, here is the link to Casi en Serio. Visit and follow the international chain of photos taken all over the world. Anyone can join this game: every month a new photographic challenge is prompted, if you are interested the instructions are here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resolve to know more, know that you won't understand it.

 Yes, I am talking about infertility. It is #NIAW, national infertility awareness week again. Infertility happens all around us and it is highly probable that someone you know is silently struggling with it. Infertility is a painful journey that affects 10-15% percent of couples. Knowing more about it, sharing our stories will  help break the stigma, the taboo, make us all more empathetic.

Maybe you have already heard the statistics: 20% of the couples under the age of 35 trying to conceive will succeed after 1 month, 70% after 6 months and 85 % within a year. It's the remaining 15% that are classified as infertile and advised to seek medical help. Some infertility causes are known, but sometimes, after months and months of trying, after blood tests, surgery, needles, echographies, after waiting and hoping, and crying, and being crushed, and starting all over again, and again, and again the causes remain unknown. 

Infertility has changed something fundamental in me. I am, and forever will be, grateful beyond words for our miracle (ICSI) daughter. But I am afraid infertility is not going to go away, ever. I am not proud of this, but there are times when I hear someones' pregnancy news, and even though we had our breakthrough, I still get the feelings. The monster is still inside me, and I find myself thinking: "But they had it so easy, did we do something wrong? Did we misinterpret my fertile signs all-those-months?" I am very aware that if baby number two ever comes, it will be another huge, enormous wonder. But I feel greedy/selfish for even hoping for that already, like maybe I had my miracle share already and I shouldn't want more. I am enjoying every single instant with our daughter and I am constantly aware and at awe that she is here with us, that she is such a beautiful reality. I feel guilty when walking with the stroller at the park or at the supermarket, because I know, if not bitter, the sight of 2014-me would have made 2010, 2011, 2012-me very sad, and inspire all kinds of green-witch-envy-why-not-me-already feelings. But I "don't want to pretend it hasn't changed me" And so I tell our story to everyone and their mother. Maybe it's Too Much Information and maybe I will make people uncomfortable (particularly in some very religious circles in my hometown), but so be it. I want this to stop being a taboo, a silent, isolating battle. If we all share our stories, we can understand and help each other out even if we don't necessarily have the same life experiences.

Accepting it, embracing the journey, losing the fear and continuing on the path where we found ourselves, not knowing where we'd end was what got us through it. It made me learn to be in the moment, to find the joy even in the darkest days, to let go of the why, to accept that not understanding, not knowing is also OK. 

A short text by Angeles Mastretta, part of the story "Ninguna eternidad como la mía" and the song "Cuando llegaré" by Natalia Lafourcade capture well these feelings (in its original Spanish). 

<< Me comprometo a vivir con intensidad y regocijo, a no dejarme vencer por los abismos del amor, ni por el miedo que de éste me caiga encima, ni por el olvido, ni siquiera por el tormento de una pasión contradecida. Me comprometo a recordar, a conocer mis yerros, a bendecir mis arrebatos. Me comprometo a perdonar los abandonos, a no desdeñar nada de todo lo que me conmueva, me deslumbre, me quebrante, me alegre. Larga vida prometo, larga paciencia, historias largas. Y nada abreviaré que deba sucederme, ni la pena ni el éxtasis, para que cuando sea vieja tenga como deleite la detallada historia de mis días.>>

<< A veces pregunto si lo que me dieron tiene sentido algún motivo, sé que al final este es mi destino, mientras lo acepte lo lleve conmigo. Cuándo llegaré? Cuándo llegarás? Cuándo llegaré? Cuándo, Cuándo llegarás? Esto es lo que soy, esto es lo que doy esto yo seré por nada lo cambiaré>>

-Click here to know more about infertility, and here to know more about NIAW.
-Surgeonlady has compiled a couple of infographics that explain well the disease;
-WeeHermione has written about (some) of the feelings associated with this journey, about what not to say to someone going through it; about sharing, and empathy and bringing the egg-rolls and the six-packs; finally
-Kirsty also has a good guide on the do's and don'ts when telling the internet that you are pregnant.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crazy, crazy magic (or babies choose their name)

For as long as I can remember I had known the name I wanted to give to my back then imaginary baby girl. When I met the boy, when we got serious, when we started talking about someday, maybe having kids, we talked about names and we both liked this name SO much that there was no question, that was going to be the name of our daughter, when we had one.

Well, it turns out, life doesn't work like that. For completely unpredictable reasons, a story that is not mine to tell, we were not able to use that name anymore. It has to do a bit with superstition and a lot with not causing unnecessary pain to relatives.

Anyhow, when I was pregnant we made a list of names we liked. At the time we were unsure as to whether or not we were going to use the name we had so long dreamed about, so we kept asking the baby to let us know what her name was. I would talk to the belly and play little games, asking her is your name Julie? Are you a Lena? If that is the case... kick hard now. I talked about all of this with Marcela, a dear friend who is also a very spiritual person. She told me her way of telling me her name was not going to be so straightforward, that maybe, while looking at a list of names, reading a book, looking at a magazine, her name would pop at me, that I, we, would just know.

When my waters broke and I was admitted at the hospital, we still did not know what name we'd choose. But as time was passing we talked about it and even though Mark wanted to use the original name, because a name is just a name, I wasn't so sure. So we agreed on one of our favorite names: Yulia, spelled with a Y to make the pronunciation easy for everyone (J is a soft sound  in English and Dutch, but a hard one in Spanish). The Italian handwriting Giulia made it clear, but we thought that would be complicated for those not familiar with it. So we took the Russian spelling, assuming a Y sound is soft pretty much everywhere.

In my father's side of the family there is a long tradition of using 2, most commonly 3 names; however on Mark's father's side they prefer to keep names simple and short. Mark's mom often talks about how she would have liked to give her sons double names, but it wasn't done, on Mark's dad insistence. We had decided to go for the simple way and choose only one name.

Well, this is where the story starts getting strange. Hours after Yu was born, her paternal grandfather (Mark's father, the one of the simple names) called to ask if we were going to give her a second name and sent us a full list of names in Maya and Nahuatl (native languages of Pre-columbine Mexico). There were many pretty names, but Alitzel  jumped at us. It was the first name on the list and the first time we both immediately agreed on a name. It went well with the name we had already chosen, and we loved the meaning: smiling girl (in Maya). It's funny because I was drawn to names that started with Ali (Alienor, Aline) or liked names that could be shortened to Lizzie or Lexi (Elizabeth, Alexandra). This is all funny because now we have both  the Ali part, and the Litzy part in the same name. Also, the second part of her name, Itzel, comes from  Ix-chel, tha Mayan goddess of love, fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, the moon (!!!), and medicine.

As if that was not special or crazy enough, this morning my sister sent me some photos. Once upon a time, in the summer of 2000, I was a 20-year-old girl who loved tulips (the Dutch's pride!)  and had her uncle take some photos of her. I remember those tulips , I remember crazy-me saying they represented my future kids and naming those flowers Diego and Lucía. Then, my parents printed one of the photos from the photoshoot and put it in a silver frame that we had received as a favor at the baptism of the daughter of some friends of the family (that I didn't even remember at all, until now). Look at what's engraved on the frame:

Her first name, Yulia, comes from latin and it means young (early?), youthful, Jove's child. It is also a Biblical name, associating Julia with curly hair (Scripture references:  Romans 16:15, Acts 27:1-3)

<<By birth a member of one of the great old homes in Rome, Julia was doubtless a member of the imperial court and therefore among the saints to be found in Caesar’s household. Perhaps she was the wife or sister of Philologus with whose name she is coupled. She is named among those to whom Paul sent a warm salutation. The extension of her name, Julius, implies, “curly-headed”>>*

And it's also of course the feminine version of one of my favorite authors, Julio Cortazar (who loved crazy coincidences!). So that's how Yulia Alitzel, our young laughing girl with culy hair got her name.
*All the women of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer. Zondervan. First published as 'The women of the Bible' in 1967.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Baby gear: choosing (and loving) our stroller

The first baby item that we thoroughly researched when preparing for baby Yu's arrival was her stroller. We went to the huge warehouses that stock all kinds of baby gear, knowing that everything was probably going to be overpriced, but with the intention of looking, feeling and playing with the objects.

It was still in those early, vulnerable days, before 20 weeks, when we couldn't believe this was finally happening. I guess it has to do with the fact that we love to go on walks so much that a stroller was the first thing we went looking for (it could have been anything).

We knew we wanted an all-terrain kind of stroller, one that would take parks, paved streets, the dunes. I'm not gonna lie, when we first saw them (and after hearing a couple of recommendations), the Bugaboos called our attention. Oh, and the Joolz, with their pretty details and high-quality personalized finishings. But, they were completely out of our budget. Also, when we played around trying to fold a Bugaboo it did not seem so intuitive. We didn't like the Stokke as it seemed unstable, with all the weight falling on one diagonal, and it did not have much space for carrying stuff around.

Anyhow, one of the most decisive factors was the big wheels, and so, it was a matter of elimination before we found our stroller. I insisted on having 4 wheels (not 3), for stability, and we wanted a travel system (with a babycot, car seat and bigger-child seat) all clickable to the same frame. We wanted a stroller that was strong and that would last a while, a stroller that would endure city trips and be practical for travel. Our candidates were the Mutsy Evo, the Koelstra Binque and the Maxi-Cosi Mura 3 or 4. The Koelstra looked really good, and I loved that it was available in a pretty jade green, but it was really hard to fold and it looked a bit flimsy, so we eliminated it.

In the end we went for the Maxi-Cosi Mura 4, as it ticked all of our requirements. As soon as I touched it I was kind of in love with it, it is very, very easy to fold, in just one movement. I loved the huge wheels that are easily replaceable and the quality is really good, with the price being in the middle-range. We were *almost* ready to get it new, I had already found a good discount online, when we decided, just in case, to check if we could get it second-hand. And yes, we found an offer, at a really good price, of an older version of the same stroller, good as new, clean, and in a beautiful Royal blue (well the color is called Atlantic). So we made an appointment, just to have a look. Had we gotten it new, we were going to get it in either Red or Brown. At that moment we didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl, but seeing how good of a deal it was and the great condition in which it had been kept, we decided to go for it. I specially love how some of the inside details are in a pretty turquoise blue.  And we really don't care about boy or girl colors... colors are for everyone.

We have been using it pretty much every day since Yu was allowed to see the world, and the more we use it, the more we love it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Changing patterns and confusing advice

 I haven't been reading much about 'the rules' or what babies are supposed to be doing or not doing at certain moments of development. Yes, my parent's got me 'The day-by-day baby book', because who am I kidding: I love guidelines, charts, and I have to know things. During pregnancy I read Pamela Druckerman's 'French children don't throw food', which I loved but that's about it. Mostly, we are following the advice from our pediatrician and baby physiotherapist. And I don't even want to look at online forums because people on the internet start screaming at each other pretty fast.

It used to be that baby Yu would sleep for 3 hours in a row (sometimes even more), waking up only to eat (and be changed). Our mornings used to be nice and calm and I knew that as soon as I finished breastfeeding, she would go to sleep, passed out on milk, with that cute look of drunken satisfaction that makes us smile so much. At least it used to be so for the best part of the day, before witching hour* starts sometime between 17:00 and 19:00, when she cries, and cries, and cries. And then she cries some more.

Well, lately  her pattern has been changing. Sometimes even-though she's finished her meal; even-though she clearly does not want to eat anymore; even-though she is clean and she has burped, she won't sleep. I can put her down on her crib, tell her soothing words like: "baby, now it's your time to sleep", sing lullabies, play white noise, pet her... and she will just stay wide awake. And sometimes she will cry because she is awake and she still won't sleep. Rocking her helps, but it's so confusing. The official advice, the one we are following, says that for her age (11 weeks, though, 1 month developmentally, considering her due date), she should be sleeping around 3 hours between feeds and that ideally, she should be back asleep within maximum 1h 30 minutes after we started her routine. At our last appointment the physiotherapist said we should not rock her. She has to learn to sleep all by herself. And I do, I want to teach her to be independent. And I hear in my mind the voices of Pamela Druckerman and all the French moms telling me not to pick her up. And I don't, not when she's making her little baby noises. But... if I wait until she screams, am I not teaching her that if she screams I will pick her up? That if she doesn't scream I will ignore her? That's not what I want to teach her. And I really don't know where she is in terms of her development. Some of the things she does correspond to her real age (10-11 weeks) and some others to the date from her due date (4 weeks and a half). And when people say things like: " I did so and so, and my kids turned out just fine", I feel judged, for trying to do things differently, for following advice, for trying to make my girl follow rules that are maybe not applicable to her. And when the professionals say things like: "it happens because you miss her cues", it makes me want to punch things, because I knew the kid wanted to sleep, and it's what I was trying to help her do, all along. I am starting to see she is her own person (obviously), with her own strong will, and she will sleep when she will and she'll stay awake and scream when she feels like doing so, regardless of whatever tactic I am trying to implement at that moment.
*We still don't know what that is. Is it colics? Is my milk-flow too fast? Do I have too little milk? Is she crying for sport? Is she overstimulated? Angry? Overwhelmed at the world? Does she need a new diaper? Is she in pain? Is she sleepy? Or hungry? Or tired? Or is it that she wants to have a rest and she can't? Is it trapped air? Does she have to regurgitate? Or burp? Or all those things at the same time? She seems to want to eat, but pulls herself away screaming. She wants to sleep, you see her yawn, and no matter what you do, she won't fall asleep until she will. All you can do is roll with it, go with the flow, hug her tight and walk around.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Books coming, books going.

 Snail mail is my favorite, and books are the best invention ever. So, naturally, #AOW bookswap season is always a source of joy.

But then, when it turns out that one of your close friends, who you actually met through blogging and playing photographic games, serendipitously happens to be your bookswapper, well, that's what I call magic.

I just opened a parcel that arrived yesterday and you should have seen my surprise when I opened the cardboard envelope and I found a navy blue package with a yellow ribbon, and then I read some Alice-in-Wonderland-style instructions.

At the beginning of the week I ordered 'The view from Castle Rock', by Alice Munro (last year's Nobel prize winner), the book I got assigned for Reading time by Lauren TM, and I was certain those were the contents of the package. But no, it was my #AOW bookwsap book! So special. Thanks so much! And nope, even though I picked it up a few times and I was this-close to buying it, I had always let it go, in favour of something else.

More coincidences... my AOW bookswap package is leaving the country today. I hope its recipient will like it.

Oh, and in case you are curious, these were my answers to the 'Very Special Questionnaire of Book Joy' (in Anna K's words). 
Q1. Hello! What is your name and whereabouts in the world are you?My name is Amanda and I am a Mexican-Swiss-British girl living in The Netherlands

Q2- Who is your favourite author?
Julio Cortazar, Milan Kundera, Herman Hesse 
Q3-What is your favourite book of all time and how would you describe it in three words?
Rayuela (Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar). Magic, Coincidences/Serendipity, Love-story-in-Paris.
Q4-What was the best book you read in 2012 - again, describe in 3 words?
  Storyteller, the life of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock. Fun, Intriguing, Smart. I also enjoyed "French children don't throw food" by Pamela Druckerman.
Q5-What was your least favourite book you read in 2012 and why - in no more than 50 words?
  Why be happy when you could be normal, by Jeanette Winterson. This is actually a good book, beautifully written, great story, the title drew me hard. But I found it so absolutely sad (borderline depressive) that even if the end does get better and it is full with lessons about life, it left me with a bad taste of mouth. But then again that's art.
Q6- If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?
 The chronicles of Narnia, Rayuela (Hopscotch), The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, and.... Alice in Wonderland
Q7-What was your favourite book as a child?
Hans Christian Andersen-s fairy tales, I read the Chronicles of Narnia later, when I was around 12, and loved them too. I was also a big fan of "Crusade in Jeans" by Thea Beckman and "Microbe hunters" by Paul de Kruif.   
I just realized the last two books in that list were written by Dutch authors. And I ended up marrying a Dutch guy. Also, "Crusade in Jeans" was also a favorite book of Mark as a kid. Yet more coincidences. 
What are you reading right now? Do you have any recommendations? Would you like to play along and answer the questionnaire in the comments?

The Alice in Wonderland illustration is by Marjorie Torrie, found here. 
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