The myth of the Baby Jogger

Once upon a time, a woman who considered herself a runner became pregnant. She and her husband were excited in all the usual ways a newly-pregnant couple are excited (in other words, they were completely naive and clueless).

And they, like all newly-pregnant couples, began to buy things. Not a ton of things (in their minds anyway), but things that were considered “necessary.” A car seat, for example, which you cannot even leave the hospital without having installed (this was not a bus-going kind of couple). Top of the list, like all newly-pregnant couples, was The Perfect Stroller.

The runner/newly-pregnant woman was already envisioning long, leisurely jogs around Songsvann lake with her blessed child peacefully asleep in his or her jogging stroller. She researched and read reports and talked to other runners online, until finally – to the great relief of her husband and – a decision was made.

Fast forward 18 months later, and you’ll find this same woman sweating and cursing at this originally-beloved jogging stroller as they struggle up a ginormous hill in Gran Canaria. It’s not because of the stroller, which is lightweight and manageable and blah, blah, blah all things a good jogging stroller should be. It’s because jogging strollers – although brilliant in concept – are a load of BS in reality.

Here’s why:

1. You can’t use your jogging stroller for actual jogging until your baby can sit upright and hold it’s head steady. Makes sense, of course, but by that time your miniature companion is most likely a 20-pound weight in the saddle. Get the most lightweight model on the market, you’re still pushing around a pretty hefty meatloaf. It makes running on even the slightest incline very difficult.

2. By the time you can run again after the delivery of said meatloaf, you’re going to really, really miss the old days. Your body will jiggle like it never did before, and in places you never really imagined. I’m not talking about just a pair of saggy boobs, either – those can be held in place with some magnetic force fields and a good running bra. I’m talking about those nether-lands that began to drip, drip, drip… ever since you got pregnant and still haven’t stopped. Nature’s laughing at you, my post-partum friend, and the baby jogger ain’t gonna make that one bit easier to bear.

3. The best part of running, in my mind, was always to get away from it all. Not to bring it with me, for heaven’s sake! So imagine you’re finally back in your running game and finding your stride again. This is the perfect opportunity to leave the baby at home with pappa, and go out on your own. It took me four months after Per Christian was born to actually take a few minutes to myself for a run around the neighborhood (which, let’s face it, was more a walk/jog at that point). I was so happy, I honestly cried mid-stride. No joke.

So forget about finding the perfect baby jogger to take them with you on your runs – instead, force your partner to get fat and out of shape for the next nine months while you enjoy some time off (quid pro quo, my friend…).

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my jogging stroller as a stroller in general – it has a great canopy for the Canary sunshine, it reclines back when Per Christian wants to nap (ha! as if…), and it has an ample basket underneath for when mommy & pappa take their Prosecco to the park. But there isn’t a jogging stroller in the world that makes it better than going out and running on my own.

So, for the meantime, pappa gets to put on a bit of weight while mommy gets out for her runs. The way I see it, he can complain about it only after his nether-lands start dripping…

Home Sweet Home

Enough said…. ?

Photos and more coming up – just as soon as Mummy & Pappa can recall the difference between night and day.

Thank you all for the many good wishes you’ve been sending our way!

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!

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!

The Svendsen family car decision

Like many soon-to-be parents in their 30’s, Per and I are confronting a difficult task these days… trading in our sleek little get-around-town car for a larger family wagon. The most dreaded task of all, the one that poignantly signifies that our single party lives are over and that Family Life (aka “Adulthood”) has begun.

We need something that can fit at least a car seat in the back, and most likely also the additions of stroller, diaper bags, toys, blankets and copious amounts of prosecco bottles. I suppose there’s also a baby in there somewhere but honestly what’s the difference? The point is that we need a new car, preferably before the Melon arrives at the end of March.

But unlike many new parents, we face a different lifestyle that makes confronting a car purchase more complex. We move about every 2-3 years (at our own choice) and will probably face another such move sometime before the end of 2011. So whatever car we get now, we’ll have to try and resell it sooner than most economists would consider efficient. I can just hear the world’s financial advisers crying in their sleep at the thought.

After several weeks of shopping around used car lots in Oslo, we find ourselves yet again at a crossroads. We have several potential offers, but they all boil down to the same typical Svendsen heart v.s. mind connundrum:

Option 1: Spend money for something we’ll really enjoy driving for a few months and most likely lose money on at the end; or

Option 2: Save money on a more practical option that will manage to get us from point A to B with the Melon and his assorted accessories.

Of course the Svendsen couple you know and love (i.e. the same people that consider the installation of a wine chiller in their nursery) are leaning towards Option 1. But the presence of said Adulthood parameters are forcing us to think twice.

Anyone out there want to weigh in on this one? Leave us some advice in the Comments section below and I’ll update you on the final outcome once it’s been made.

Boys vs. Girls

So we’re expecting a boy to arrive at the end of March (or so the ultrasound promises), a little Svendsen Jr. who I hope will take after his handsome father. It’s my own little contribution to world peace – adding one more  well-trained, tender-hearted Scandinavian to the list of eligible bachelors.

I actually love that we’re having a boy because I’m not a very “girlie” girl. I don’t melt at the sight of bows and ribbbons on little girls’ clothing and I don’t know what to do with all things pink. Even my husband wears more pink than I do and, trust me, he wears it well. I think miniature plaid shirts and denim jeans are much cuter, and I’m quite happy to buy crib sheets with trucks and trains and puppy dog tails on them, thank you very much.

(Besides all the above, I’ve also always secretly dreaded my mother’s threat of, “I hope you have one just like you!” So I feel like I’ve narrowly escaped something disastrous.) 

But if we were having a girl, I’d want her to look like this at eight days old…. you’d have to be made of stone not to melt at this sight:

On a separate note, I had a wonderful surprise baby shower thrown for me last weekend, complete with international visitors from London and Ireland. It was COLD here in Oslo, but everyone fearlessly gathered anyway to fill my weekend with happy tidings for the imminent arrival. Many thanks go out to my good friend Neda who organized all the festivities.

So while Per was out skiing in Austria with 10 other drunken Vikings, I got showered with massages, gifts and good girlfriends at home…. whichever scenario appeals to you more probably depends upon your gender, age and overall level of mental health.

A few photos from the baby shower are below, shamelessly pilfered from Mariah Hartman’s Facebook account. (Click any image for full-sized versions.)

Tomorrow Per and I go furniture shopping for the nursery – more updates and photos to come!