To be or not to be….

…. Apparently that is what our little melon is pondering these days.

He’s already mastered the art of exhausting his parents, and the hospital staff that have now sent us home TWICE to wait it out probably have some choice words for him as well.

Everyone keeps trying to remind me of the little miracle that awaits us at the end of this entire process, but quite frankly after being awake for over 36 hours I’m starting to adopt Per’s so-called selfishness.

Listen little man – I love you and all, but give me a break already. Mommy has some prosecco chillin’ in the fridge and is just waiting for your arrival to crack it open. Be a sport and get on with it already, won’t you?”

Thanks for the temporary distraction everyone… upwards and onwards we go!

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Growing a melon… (photos!)

I’ve been hesitant to take or share any belly pictures during this pregnancy, mostly out of a keen interest to deny that my body wasn’t as fit and trim as I’m used to. But now that the end is in sight and I can no longer deny that something’s going on down there, I think it’s interesting to see the progression over the weeks.

So I’m giving in to popular demand (and several fierce requests from my mother), and sharing a few shots of the Melon as he’s grown and changed over the past nine months. I didn’t originally set out to capture the progression, but it seems to have happened anyway. Enjoy!

Fidel at 12 weeks

18 weeks and growing

22 weeks - in the US for Thanksgiving

27 weeks - in Sri Lanka for Christmas and New Year's

38 weeks - no denying the changes anymore

Latest from today, 39 weeks and 2 days (counting, counting....)

Daddy Diaries, Vol. 1: Per Speaks

(Editor’s note: In an effort to include thoughts from both members of the Svendsen family while still requiring minimal effort from the male member, we’re launching a series of interviews with our favorite husband and pappa-to-be. The thoughts below are exclusively from Per, but the typing and witty editorial comments are courtesy of the author herself.)

M:  How did you react when the big announcement first came your way….
P: Marguerite told me about the pregnancy over the phone from Stavanger. She was still commuting at the time and couldn’t wait to tell me face-to-face. (NB: this is true, I can’t deny my inability to keep secrets from my husband….). I sent her the photos below to illustrate emotions I found hard to put into words:

Per's reaction to the Big News

It was really a surreal moment, kind of like falling in love – you know you’re happy, but not really sure WHAT you’re happy about yet. I felt a kind of victory but, at the same time, I wondered – what am I actually cheering for?

M: Has it hit you yet that there’s going to be a B-A-B-Y in the house?
P: Not really. We’re still in “chores-mode” at this point. I was raised as an only child and I’m quite selfish, so it’s good that I’ve had nine months to adjust. I think most fathers-to-be feel a bit disconnected from the whole pregnancy thing – we see our partners growing and we get excited at the ultrasounds, but it’s not as much “in our face” all the time as it is for our partners. The hardest struggle for me is to put aside my selfishness and try to empathize with what you’re feeling everyday. (NB: Per’s being too hard on himself here – he’s been an outstanding source of support for the author, even waking to tuck her back into bed after her midnight waddles to the toilet.)

M: Any thoughts about the pregnancy thus far?
P: I think I’ve gotten off a bit easy actually – not too much sickness or emotional outbursts, and no forced trips to London to satisfy cravings for Marks & Spencer egg salad. Maybe I’ve missed out on something there, but still I feel lucky that we’ve had a pretty easy go of it. (NB: In all fairness, the M&S egg salad is definitely crave-worthy. Trust me, I know all about it….)

M: Tell everyone about the new car….
P: I love it! It’s got all the gadgets a man could ever want, plus now also the (somewhat strange) addition of a baby seat in the back. It’s a typical Svendsen purchase made with the heart rather than the head, but driving is now a pleasure rather than a chore.

M: What are you most looking forward to right now?
P: I’ll admit that I’m a bit scared of the actual birth. My father managed to escape my own birth and I’d probably prefer to follow in his footsteps and get pissed in a pub somewhere. But I can appreciate the effort involved in holding hands with your wife and giving support when it’s needed the most. I’m really looking forward to bringing the chap home and having him sleep on my chest for the first time. (NB: A collective “ahhhh, how cute….” will be heard from women around the world at such an image.)

M: Any thoughts on actual parenting?
P: I assume I’ll make it up as I go along. I’d much rather prefer a few “pee-in-the-face” moments rather than attending a diaper course or having some nanny tell me what to do. I want to bring some of the strengths of my own father into the mix — leading from my heart and the rest will fall into place. (NB: This is a welcome balance to the author’s own approach, which involves a stack of baby books with highlighted passages and sticky notes throughout…)

M: So where do you fall on the Prosecco vs. Pampers spectrum?
P: Right now I’m unfortunately limiting my Prosecco intake in preparation for an emergency drive to the delivery ward. Following the birth, we’ll just have to wait and see….

Home Sweet Home

Per and I agreed not to begin preparing our nursery until after the holidays had passed last year. We were both working quite a lot at the time, and the arrival of little Fidel seemed so far in the future that getting his room ready just wasn’t a priority.

I suppose the downside to this Master Plan was that the decorating began following our trip to Sri Lanka when I was at my highest level of “elephant-crazy.” For those who haven’t experienced it, beware – it’s a particularly persistent ailment that encourages ga-ga behaviour towards this particular brand of pachyderm, much to the amusement  and possible embarrassment of loved ones around them. It does, however, make for extremely easy holiday gift ideas.

I mean, seriously – how can any half-respectable American brought up in the Disney land of Dumbo (and with the hormone level that comes with being six months pregnant) NOT get choked up by the sight of elephant snuggling?!?!

Photo from the Sri Lankan Elephant Orphanage, January 2011

Besides the snuggling bit, reading up on elephants makes me less afraid of my own upcoming labor and delivery. According to my extensive research (consisting of one photo book on the Sri Lankan elephant), elephant mothers carry their young for 18-22 months before they’re born at the staggering weight of 75-115 kilos (i.e. a LOT of pounds). Somehow the thought of harvesting my 3-kilo Melon isn’t so frightening in relative terms.

So Fidel’s nursery has a definite elephant theme to it – elephant toys, pictures, stuffed animals, even a few sleepers and blankets. Per has been extremely accepting of my departure to crazy-land and, just like intelligent pappas-to-be everywhere, he’s let mommy have a free hand in all the details. (However, I did hear that he gave instructions to my shower organizers for “no more f****ing elephant gifts….)

We still have a few minor things to add, and this doesn’t show the vintage Svendsen cradle we have ready in the bedroom, but for the most part we’re all done and ready for our son’s arrival. Hurry up little Melon, we’re ready for you!

The Svendsen nursery

Where the Melon will sleep soundly at all times, and where Pappa will change all his diapers

First six months of clothing supplies - we have no idea if it's too much or too little...

Svendsen Jr's first shoe collection!

Yep, more elephant-crazy

The famous diaper cake, which I haven't had the heart to dismantle yet.

I've already tested the chair and proven that it's nap-worthy material.

Friends in waiting....

More friends

Have baby, will travel! We fully expect Fidel to inherit his parents' travel bug.

That’s it for now…. Have a great weekend everyone!

Winning the Lottery

We have a good friend who once said that being born in Norway was like winning the lottery. As a newly-minted beneficiary of the Norwegian “permisjon” system (i.e. – maternity leave), I must agree.  As of yesterday, I am now offically excused from work until March 2012. With full benefits. Plus  full vacation time. Plus 80% salary. Plus a guaranteed job when I return.

Lottery, indeed!

Now I know there are some heated opinions on the topic, but let me say this – I challenge any mother (or father, for that matter) to choose lower tax rates over having the first 12 months at home with their newborns. In Norway, there’s no need to choose between surviving on one salary or paying for expensive daycare. You have full rights to stay at home for 42-52 weeks and then make your child care decision at a more civilized age.

I get these benefits not because I’m married to a Norwegian but because I’ve worked here and paid into the system for at least the past six months. And pappas are also required to participate – they must use at least 10 of the 42 weeks or else lose them completely. In Oslo, it’s not an unfamiliar site to see fathers and baby strollers filling the cafes during the weekday lunch hour while mommy goes back to work. Of course, these poor children are usually dressed in mismatched clothing that daddy didn’t see a problem blending together, but the fashion trauma doesn’t seem to leave any lasting impact…

It’s also quite common for both parents to take their leave at the same time, thereby allowing the entire family to rent a house in the south of Spain for a month or two on the government’s dime. I know one set of parents who just returned from three weeks in the Alps with their one-year old daughter, another set of parents went off for six weeks to Australia (with their little one as well – no leaving them behind for a child-free holiday).

I also haven’t paid a single penny towards my prenatal care and won’t have to pay anything for the delivery at the hospital. You won’t find any insurance debates about what gets covered or who pays if something goes wrong. It’s all included, thank-you-very-much. We will have to pay for Per’s room & board at the post-delivery hotel with me and the Melon, but I suppose we can swallow that goverment-subsidized pill without too much complaint. 

This isn’t to say that the system is flawless, and I know a lot of people take advantage of the benefits that we all pay to receive. But for the Svendsen family –  right here and now – it is indeed a winning lottery ticket.

Next time I’ll update you on what I’m actually doing with the time “off” this month before the Melon arrives — nursery photos are on the way!

Naming The Melon

Per and I have had a few “unconventional” nicknames for our growing child over the past eight months. When we first learned of the pregnancy last summer, we followed a somewhat traditional path and called “it” the peanut. It made sense at the time as really that’s about all it was. In early pregnancy, when you don’t have a rounded belly or any other visible signs of impending parenthood, it’s hard to imagine anything larger than a peanut actually existing inside of you.

But as time progressed and I gradually felt my body being rudely taken over by aliens, it was harder to imagine the young thing as some miniature, harmless  snack food. There was definitely a new boss of the house and not necessarily one that I always enjoyed. Around the 12-week mark, in between nights of sickness and days of fatigue, I made a comment to Per that I had a communist dictator living inside of me. So, much to our parents’ bewilderment, we spontaeously renamed our cute little peanut as “Fidel.”

I mean no disrepect to communist dictators around the world, but the fact is that you share several strong traits with my growing son in vitro —- you always want your own way, you don’t feel the need to heed anyone’s requests, and you’re constantly trying to expand your territory at someone else’s expense. So Fidel he became, and so he has been ever since the 3rd or 4th month. (And yes – we’re already saving our money for Fidel’s inevitable counseling sessions.)

Recently, I’ve incorporated another nickname that I use quite frequently on this blog – The Melon. It’s an obvious name, as it’s clearly what I now have attached to my formerly-smooth stomach. But it’s also often used on my BabyBump iPhone application to illustrate Fidel’s week-by-week growth progress. For example:

Week 31 – 41.3 cm, size of four navel oranges
Week 33 – 43.2 cm, size of a pineapple
Week 34 – 45.1 cm, size of an average cantaloupe
Week 35 – 45.7 cm, size of a honeydew melon
Week 36 – 47.6cm, size of a crenshaw melon (what is that anyway?!?!)

Weeks 20-29 were more of the vegetable variety (spaghetti squash, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, butternut squash….), but apparently now I’m so big that the application developers had to switch food groups. (By the way – if you look up “melons” via Google images, you will find an amusing variety of non-fruit-related photographs. Just a little tip from me to you…)

Of course, this latest nickname will also soon be replaced in a few weeks when Peanut/Fidel/Melon is born. I promise you all that his parents will then give him a real name that can be used in public without fear of scorning or Amnesty protests. We’ve got our name selections narrowed down to a few final contenders, and there’s one in particular that currently stands above the rest. No devolving of information right now though – that will only become public in Fidel’s birth announcement to all his adoring fans.

One final note — thanks to everyone for your comments on the Svendsen Family Car! We finally made a decision and purchased a 2010 Ford Mondeo that was a showroom model and therefore souped-up with all the bells and whistles that men seem to need these days. For better or for worse, the Svendsens have decided to live in the Here & Now, purchasing the best we can afford at the time and letting the future unravel as it must. Our purchase was dutifully celebrated with the requisite taste of Prosecco (it was actually red wine from La Sada this time – one glass for Mommy & The Melon, the remaining 1/2 litre for Per).

37 weeks and counting!