Sunday, August 27, 2017

Maternity leave

Bowie was born two months ago today. And since I can't do anything normally, since my life has resembled an unrealistic soap opera for the last five years, he was of course born in a car. Not in the hospital, not at home. On the backseat of a car. The birth went so fast and my doula didn't realize, so we didn't make it further than the parking lot of the hospital. I grabbed him and pulled him onto my chest crying, assuring me that everything was okay. He was slightly small but perfect. He is still small and perfect.

Zoe adores him and has shown herself to be a great big sister, carrying him around, even changing him on her own initiative. Our summer together was amazing but now everyday life is knocking on the door. Zoe has started school in Stockholm because her and I have failed to convince her dad that it would be better for her to be in Copenhagen for school. Instead, he has generously granted me every second weekend and Zoe is just starting to realize this. In addition to calling me up crying at night ("mommy, why do I have to be here so much?") she counts the days until we get to see each other again. My stomach is in a knot and I'm trying to think up other possibilities that would enable me to see her more while she can still attend school in Stockholm as mandated by her dad and the State (last year school for her was not State mandated and I could take her to Copenhagen on weekdays). Meanwhile I have 4 more month of maternity leave, looking after Bowie full time but also being alone 24/7. My family is here and generously look after him 2-3 hours at a time if I need to and that means I have been able to go to the hair dresser and occasionally get a shower. When Zoe is here we go to the movies or swimming, while my mom looks after Bowie. Luckily he is a great sleeper who rarely cries and when he does, I pick him up and he stops. He loves being in a wrap and sleeps both in his crib and my arms.

But as with all maternity leaves, this is lonely. I spend so much time, just him and me and it makes me so sad to think that, somewhere else, my daughter misses me and has to spend all afternoon in the after-school she hates, instead of being with me. As my friend said "what a waste of maternity leave".

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Almost there

Too cool for school in our new apartment
"We have to make the most of this time", Zoe said to me as I tucked her into bed. "This is the last time you and I are just the two of us". Her insightfulness touched me and I agreed. We were going swimming the next morning and then we had to pick up some items in the city center, in an effort to be just a bit more ready for the big day when her little brother will be here. As much as I wanted to nest and make sure I had baby clothes, a changing table and, well a basic livable home, I also wanted to spend every single second with Zoe, chatting, laughing, singing, reading and doing the things that mothers and daughters do together. It was indeed the very last time in our lives when it was just us. I grew teary eyed and hugged her. How would I be able to provide her with the detailed attention and care that I have done the last 7 years? How could a little sibling make up for the time that we will lose out on the two of us? Was it going to be worth it?

Ceramics workshop creations
Within the last month, things have changed rapidly and my life is already completely different. I took over my new apartment in Copenhagen after selling the one in Stockholm and I have not flown since our trip to New York. I need to be in Copenhagen where the baby will be born and I need to have a home I can take him to when he is on the outside. I need to have a home for Zoe and as much as we loved our little apartment in Stockholm, its 34 m2 was not fit for more than her and I, with a bit of good effort. My apartment in Copenhagen is more than twice that size with a giant living room, ready to be divided into a bedroom for Zoe and an average living room. It is on the ground floor, which I initially was hesitant about, but Zoe is already running out to the back yard on her own to play with new friends and bike around on her new bike that I got secondhand for her. She feels secure that she can always knock on our kitchen window and get my attention if she needs to.

After she fell asleep, I made a few more plans that included a ceramics workshop and a trip to the local ice cream shop while we are still just us. Our new Copenhagen life awaits, soon with an extra little person.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New York life for 6 days

After bringing Zoe to my usual conference we are stopping by New York on the way back. I am officially on vacation without any deadlines, which is a rare thing for me, so we have been hanging out with friends, shopped and eaten our usually places and simply been a bit nostalgic about our old lifestyle and 'hood (West Village). I'm overwhelmed with the amount of play dates Zoe has had, with the fact that her old drama teacher volunteered to have her for an afternoon (essentially giving her a private theater lesson) and with all the people recognizing us at our regular places. New York is still home to us. But what really got to me was when we entered the apartment building this evening after a long fun day, and Zoe seemed a bit sad. "What's wrong", I asked and she looked at me tearfully. "It's just New York. I miss it so much". She then broke down crying and started hugging me. "I just miss it so much when we are here. And I grow up so fast, suddenly I'm a teenager, then I'm grown up..." I didn't know what to say but we walked up to 4th floor, her still sobbing a bit, me worried that she was reading my own sadness, missing New York at the same time as us having a brilliant time here. "One day you will move back", I half-promised.

But we also have a lot of good things to go back to Denmark to. We have our new apartment to go back to, a new little brother who will come out in a month's time, and friends and family to spend time with. I asked Zoe if we should stop going to NY for a while, so she wouldn't get sad and she actually nodded. We will see how we do though, once an addiction, always an addiction. The Empire State Building was shining blue for us that evening.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A regular everyday life

I grew up in a nuclear family with a regular life of going to school every day and having dinner together with my family every night. Like most middle class children in the western (and possibly also eastern, northern and southern) hemisphere. Yet, since I was 18 my life has been less than regular, mostly because I have spend few long stretches of time in the same countries or city, instead often in differing settings with a multitude of living circumstances and a mix of irregular jobs. It has never bothered me, in fact I enjoy the diversity in my life and I know I get tired quickly from staying in the same place. (perhaps this is one reason I feel so much at home in NYC, the city where you could eat in a different restaurant every night and never run out of new options)

But tonight, as Zoe was drifting off to sleep, and suddenly remembering that we forgot to read in the big history book when we were in Copenhagen, but it was too late now, because we were back in Stockholm, I had a solemn realization: Zoe has never had a regular life. At least not since her dad and I split up, which she barely remembers anything from. The most regular life she has had, was when we were in New York and, mainly because she was stably there for two months at the time, before she would go back to Sweden and spend two months there. In NY we would have bagels and coffee (only me) for breakfast every morning and run to school (because we were always late), before I would go to work. We would have dinner together every night and she would go to bed at the same time, after always reading a goodnight story. We had specific activities for each day of the week, from yoga (Zoe had a children's yoga class concurrently with me having a grownup class) to me picking her up and bringing her back to my work. On Fridays she had dance class and I would run to Wholefoods for food, being back in time for pickup and on weekends we would often catch a show.

These days, her dad and I, are doing two days each, then five days each, in order to distribute the weekends. But with me in Copenhagen, we go back and forth, with Zoe missing a day in school here and there (kindergarten in Sweden is not obligatory).  She loves it in Copenhagen and I make sure to always give her a detailed schedule of what we are doing so she feels in control and knows where she will be. But a regular everyday life, it is not. As I was rubbing her back and she was still awake, I promised her that when I get more organized, I'll make sure to read a chapter of a book every night, without exception and we won't have ad-hoc sushi while watching old Chaplin movies at the coffee table. "What does ornagized mean, mom?", she said and before I could answer she went on "but I like it this way, I think it would be boring. And you are the best mom in the world". And who am I to argue with that?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Broken heart

I don't usually write much about my love life because it is very private to me, so I might mention that I'm seeing someone, but there is a big difference between dating someone and actually having feelings. Add to that, trying to date as a single mom while trying to get pregnant, oh and splitting my life between three cities, the last five years have been messy to say the least. However, rarely dull. I'm lucky to be in a very social work sphere with a lot of men around me, being a very social person with a lot of chances of meet new people through friends, but I also lived in the heart break city of them all: New York City. My main challenge, however, is sadly that I'm an extremely well educated and (people tell me) smart, attractive woman. It unfortunately creates as many barriers as advantages, if the educational part is even an advantage at all. A relationship only works if you can have an equal informed and nuanced conversation and respect each others' educated viewpoints. I have out-argued many a first dates or left social conversations because there was no challenge.

Another problem I have is that I tend to fall stupidly head-over-heals in love with guys. Not necessarily very often but when I do, it is ever encompassing and it takes me months or years to get over it. Because as sad as it sounds it has only ever happened three times where it was actually reciprocated. And all of those three times, the guy promised me everything, only to pull back weeks or a few months later, leaving me completely heart broken.

But there is one thing I have learned about relationships, from both heart break and dating without any serious feelings: A relationship needs to have certain qualities on top of two people being in love with one another. For me it boils down to mutual respect, some essential things in common and feeling comfortable in each others' company. Then I have a few very specifics that I'm not going to mention, but these are specifics that reflect trauma from my long-term marriage where certain things just never got solved. But if they are all there, I'm in. Maybe in another 10 years.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Japan holiday

Over Easter I went on one of the first real holidays in years (real holiday defined by not being three days tagged on to a conference) with my new special person because this would be one of our last chances before I can't fly for a while. And when I can fly again it will be, if all goes well, with a baby in tow. It was the most wonderful trip, just relaxing and doing touristy stuff, because in Japan you are not fooling anyone, except of course if you are Japanese, into thinking you are anything but a tourist. We saw temples, cherry blossom and I ate an insane amount of green tea flavored items, from ice cream and kitkat chocolate to yogurt and pastries. On the flight there I had hoped to get upgraded because of my condition but no such luck, however, Japanese people are very  sensitive towards pregnant women and I was offered to skip lines, sit down on a crowded subway and one evening we got seated in the special section of the restaurant for only Japanese because it was more comfortable for me.That was one of my best evenings ever because we just sat there, laughing, talking, drinking sake and enjoying life. But as all holidays, it ended and I'm now back in Copenhagen working until Zoe and I go to my yearly main conference in the beginning of May.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Zoe and the cutting board

Back in November, Zoe and I were traveling to a conference in Florida, following a week in New York to hang out with friends and say a final goodbye to our lovely apartment that we had called home for almost two years. I had to pack up the very last things that I had left such as my mocca coffee maker, a few cups and my cutting board, an item I had bought as one of the first things when realizing that the kitchen didn't come with one. It is a high quality solid wood type cutting board from Williams-Sonoma because well, if I had to buy my own, it might as well be a good one. We therefore had to bring everything with us in the suitcase, going to Florida for the conference and Disney World for a day, before taking it back to Denmark, three flights in total. As we checked in in Newark, the check-in lady informed me that I was 3 pounds overweight and that I had to remove 3 pounds or pay $200. Remember that this is kind of ridiculous thing because I always travel with only one checked in suitcase for Zoe and I. We are allowed one each but try to imagine me with a 6 year old who can just about roll her own hand luggage, then having two suitcases and a hand luggage on my own. Makes no sense when everything pretty much fits in my not very big suitcase. I looked at her and informed her that I was pregnant and that I was not capable of carrying a lot when also handling my child, but she insisted. I pulled down my suitcase and realized that the cutting board would do it. I took it out and magically enough, we were now allowed to check in our luggage. The only place however where the cutting board fitted was in Zoe's little rolling suitcase, sticking up from the top. Zoe was completely unphazed and proceeded to roll her suitcase to security check with a large cutting board sticking out.

Everything was good, except now, every time she stopped and let go of the suitcase it would fall forward. At security we went through as the pros that we are, with Zoe taking her iPad in her hand, as well as the suitcase, to a bench slightly outside my vision while I packed up my own laptop and liquids at the end of the conveyer belt. When I got to Zoe I found her in tears with an elderly lady next to her, holding her iPad. What's wrong, what happened, I asked and felt like the worst mom, abandoning my child to figure out suitcase re-packing on her own. Zoe looked up at me. "I was trying to put the iPad back in the outer pocket but every time I try, the suitcase falls over and the cutting board hits me in the head". Sure enough, Zoe had a red patch in her forehead. The elderly lady who had seen Zoe in distress, had tried to help but not succeeded either. I went over and took the cutting board out of the suitcase so she could place the iPad back in it, before putting the cutting board back again. I comforted Zoe and promised I would help next time. But in my head, I couldn't help laughing just imagining her trying again and again to put the iPad back in while the cutting board made it fall over.

Zoe figured out how to handle the suitcase with a cutting board sticking out like only a flybaby would, because my "I'm pregnant" excuse worked as little for the next two flights and I had to take it out of our checked luggage due to overweight each time. Now that I use the cutting board on an everyday basis to cut bread, veggies and fruits, I think of my amazing flybaby who bravely strolled through several airports with it, probably to the amusement and wonder of our fellow passengers.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sometimes miracles do happen

When working towards a goal for many years, and it is still not reached, it's not uncommon to lose faith. And at one point you stop talking about it with friends and family, because it is just not that interesting to talk about, to mention yet another failure. That job that you thought was going to happen, that achievement, that one and only person you wanted to meet, fall in love with, it just doesn't materialize. At first the friends and family are encouraging, telling you it will happen. Things will happen and you will reach your goal. Because you deserve it, or because you are worth it. But then their voices vane and you are left with the persistence in your head and nothing else. And it is all up to you to continue the fight. But the thing is, I did. I persisted month after month, method after method. And after almost four years of continuous fertility treatment I finally got pregnant. In fact I'm already 25 weeks tomorrow and have a kicking baby-boy inside my belly, growing and waiting patiently to come out and see his big sister and his mom by the beginning of the summer.

It was an emotional roller-coaster from the day I realized my period was not coming and that I should probably skip the beer I had just been offered. I was in chock for a week, before I took the test, watching the two lines appear and then another week later told my mom and Zoe, watching their tears of joy. I was hesitant to tell anybody else and I was hesitant to feel secure in my pregnancy. I prayed to god every evening that he would protect me and the little growing miracle inside of me. If something takes so long, it can't be real, can it? It was not until week 14 where I started thinking it is very likely that there will come a baby out of this in the end. I might actually have a second child. Zoe will finally have a little sibling. Meanwhile she takes it with the ease of a 6 year old, randomly holding my belly, putting her ear to it and getting kicked in her hand. "It's a foot, I can feel a foot!" she says excitedly and starts talking to him. "I'm your big sister and I can't wait until you come out and we can play." I'm hoping that she understands how boring babies are initially and how much time her mom needs to spend with the baby at first. But I did, those many years ago when I got a little brother, so I'm sure Zoe will be just fine. I'm cautiously optimistic.

With my growing belly comes a lot of new issues into play that I've spent the better part of my days and nights pondering. I'll share some of them here as time moves on, but right now I realized that I cannot continue chronicling Flybaby without sharing the most important news in our lives, that there will soon be a Flybaby II.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Missing flights

It was the thing that just wasn't suppose to happen in our crazy traveling life. As I left security control on my way to the gate, about to board the plane back to Copenhagen after a 48 hour visit to see the new very-important-person in my life, I got a call from from the babysitter. "They didn't let Zoe board because we didn't have the UM papers printed", she said in a cheerful voice, and it took me all of three seconds to realize this was a tone chosen not to worry Zoe who was right next to her. "But we are good, we will figure something out". A cold chill ran down my spine as I went into physical robot mode walking straight to my gate at the far end were they were now boarding. In a clear couple of sentences, almost faster than I could think, I told her that she needed to get to Copenhagen that evening, No. Matter. What. Even if the babysitter had to take her herself. Her dad was on a plane to Japan, our only other friend who can really look after her overnight was already in Japan and I could not imagine not seeing Zoe tonight. Especially now. "Find a way", I finished and hung up, trying not to panic, as I texted my mom letting her know that she didn't have to pick her up at the arranged time. I would land just 20 minutes later, not enough to meet Zoe at the exit as required for unaccompanied minors. Just before entering my own plane I received a text from the babysitter informing me that they had been able to buy a new ticket for the next flight and Zoe had been allowed to fly UM. I guess suddenly they did have papers to fill in at the airport*. I turned off my phone knowing that Zoe would be arriving in Copenhagen 20 minutes after me and I would be able to greet her at the gate. And that I would be writing the harshest complaint letter to SAS in the morning demanding an apology for the stress and worry inflicted on my daughter, as well as a refund for the extra ticket.

*I know for sure that they are able to do this because she arrived with these papers once, after being dropped off by her dad, who apparently had forgotten the pre-printed papers.

Friday, February 17, 2017

New friends

Zoe and I landed around 6:30pm in Stockholm on the Monday evening, just in time to grab sushi in the airport and head home for bed. We had landed at gate 7 ("Mom, how funny, I left from this gate too!"), which took us past the little playground and I gave in to Zoe's plea for 10 minutes play. She quickly made friends with two other bilingual kids her age and I sat down to relax for a bit, happy that she was finally playing with other kids after a mommy-only weekend. "Where are you from?", the girl asked Zoe in her British English that I later overheard she had learned from her dad. Zoe hesitated a bit, "well...", but then said in one breath "I'm from New York, but my mom is Danish and my dad is Scottish and my stepmother in Germain". I was a bit surprised, but also happy to hear that narrative. In her 6 year old life, she has lived in three different countries, four different cities, and that is not including Copenhagen where she has probably spent more time than any of the other places. She often mixes up the US, New York and California (where she was born) and just refer to the US as New York where she feels home like me and still has a lot of friends. But what I also realized was that in not so long she would probably have to add "and I have a stepfather from [a fourth country]". Because it wouldn't be our truly messy lives if I didn't find someone to date who speaks a fourth language and live in a fourth country. Still.

The two other siblings had to leave and the girl kept running back to Zoe for more goodbyes, clearly infatuated by my lovely, funny daughter. Zoe was proud, "look mommy, I made friends, they spoke English", she said as we headed down to the sushi place.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Another week

This morning I made a mental note that our passports were all on a shelf in my parents' living room. I updated the note on my phone an hour later because I knew I wouldn't remember it in a few days, in fact I had thought that they were in the passport drawer in Stockholm. But at one point I had realized that next time we needed to travel outside Scandinavia, Zoe and I, would be the US in early May, when we are attending my yearly core conference, and figured we would fly out of Copenhagen because we leave the day after Zoe's birthday. And hopefully the note on my phone would prevent me from panic when I later wondered where they were.

Scandinavia has a passport union, that has been in place for over fifty years, which means that we don't need to show passport when going between Stockholm and Copenhagen. I once encountered an anomaly, which is when you travel by plane and check in luggage. Then they ask for your passport or ID. Also the child, if the child checks in luggage. That time I happened to have Zoe's passport with me, because that is obviously the only type of ID a child can have (as far as I know, in most countries) and when I asked the check-in lady if she didn't have problems with that often, she snorted that she had never encountered it. Apparently parents rarely check in luggage in their children's name within Scandinavia, who knew?

I'm off to another two days of Stockholm, picking up Zoe from school and being with her until Wednesday morning. Then she flies down to Copenhagen on Friday for a weekend with me here. Another week, another three flights. 

Missing each other

"Mom, I don't want to go back to daddy tomorrow", Zoe cried as she was lying next to me in bed after our usual goodnight story. "I don't like to sleep in my own room, I'm so scared of monsters". I hugged her and said I understood. Five days earlier her dad had yanked the iPad out of her hand while she had been video chatting with me over breakfast, us just talking about her week and that we would see each other that evening, she eating her toast. We were both in a bit of shock, her crying and me asking to at least say goodbye to her. When I picked her up at school later that day, her teacher told me she had been sad and lying on the couch for about an hour in the morning, saying she missed her mom. The teacher had reminded Zoe that she also liked being with her dad, in the true Swedish equality way. Here, the mother and father are exactly the same to a child, no matter the behavior or the parents, no matter the actual feelings of a child. And children need to be constantly reminded that there is something wrong with being closer to one parent, they are supposed to 'like' them equally.

I miss Zoe every minute I'm not with her, (like most moms), but I'm being torn apart when I know she is missing me too. I sometimes wish that we would have a normal life where a break apart is a comfortable diversity, a chance to so something different apart. Instead we stick to one another when we are together because it feels short and limited. We have a lot of fun though, every minute we are together.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Amazing Hawaii

"Mom, I know it is a bit weird because we were just there, but I miss Hawaii", Zoe said, as she crawled into bed at our LAX airport hotel. I agreed and said we would go back one day. I missed Hawaii already too. In fact, this had been one of our most amazing trips ever despite it essentially being a conference at a resort hotel. But the hotel was amazing, huge with a canal boat we could take round and around at the resort, even at night when Zoe would fall asleep on my lap and I would just sit and continue the journey, enjoying the palm trees, the stars and the warmth of the air. We would swim in the lagoon each morning, after which Zoe would build sand castles with her new-found friends and I would get sunburned on my legs because I forgot to put sunscreen on them. We would sit indoor, me watching interesting research talks, Zoe watching Pocoyo on her iPad, for a couple of hours, before hitting the ice cream stand and get ice cream that melted too quickly in the heat. We went on a boat tour looking for whales and we walked to the shopping center to get souvenirs. One morning at breakfast, Zoe looked at me and said in a serious tone: "Mom, you are a real adventure mom. We always do so many cool things." It pretty much melted my heart and made me so happy to hear.  We do exciting things. And hopefully we will continue to do a lot of exciting things, Zoe and I.

After our night in LAX, we continued on, back to Europe with a stop in London. Two days to get there, two days to get back, but it was worth it all.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hawaii here we come

After an idyllic family Christmas, Zoe and I are embarking on our longest plane journey ever (the one to China from California was not quite as long); we are off to a conference in Hawaii. It was a long-shot when I submitted a paper last summer but it got in and now I have to go present it. From Copenhagen, Hawaii is as far away as anything possible, 12 hours behind, meaning our chances of actually getting over jetlag before we have to return are slim. I am envisioning a lot of nights in our hotel room reading books and waiting for breakfast to open, but also beach trips and Zoe yawning through conference talks in the back with her iPad (that's how we do it these days when conferences don't have childcare). It is a once in a lifetime trip and if I wasn't so broke from plane tickets between Copenhagen and Stockholm (5983 DKK per month to be exact), I would splash out on some actual trips on the island. We will be on the Big Island at a Hilton resort and there will be friends of mine with kids and someone who have promised to look after Zoe when I present my paper. All in all a good deal I think. Zoe has been singing 'Hula hula' all December in anticipation and packed not just two, but three bathing suits along her swimming doll.

Back in Copenhagen life happened. A lot of it. I can't be specific but let me say 2017 will be interesting to say the least from my personal perspective. Happy new year!