Moms are people too

I loved being pregnant. Apart from the down sides of growing another human inside of me, I really appreciated how everyone kept telling me I should rest, take it easy and not overdo it. I think that is the way we should treat ourselves all the time, by the way. I was huge, but I was hugely happy. However, the moment that baby came out of me – snap back to reality! I suddenly mattered very little. I remember being at the ICU (intensive care unit, for all those of you who don’t know) and when the nurse measured my blood pressure for the umpteenth time that night at 4 AM, I told her: I will go back to sleep now. And she said, I kid you not, ‘there will be no more sleeping’. I wanted to cry like a small child just denied cake, like a dog left outside a grocery store…then I wanted to punch her… but guess what? She was right!

It has been almost seven months since the arrival of our little boy … and there has been almost no sleeping. Unlike his big sister at his age, Ronin likes a lot of attention and care during the nighttime. Most of the time, I have no idea why he is not willing to sleep. The morning after really hard nights, I usually tell someone about it and the most common reaction I get is: oh poor thing. Just to clarify – they mean the baby, not me. Sure, the baby has some issues…but he was sleeping while I (or K) have been holding him, pushing him around in the pram, breastfeeding him. I was not sleeping during that time. And I will have very little chance to make up for that sleep during the day.

Moms need a lot of love and attention too! Really, we don’t have it easy. Sure, we were the ones who wanted the baby in the first place… but sometimes it would be nice to feel empathy. It would be nice to be hugged, be given flowers or even just a smile. It’s okay to admit that it is all simply very hard and overwhelming. It is ok to find help if you are starting to lose it a little (or a lot). Even though we created people, we are people too.

So when you see a struggling mom, tell her that you feel for her. Please.

Just yesterday, I ran into an acquaintance in the city. He just had a baby girl a week ago. I asked him how he was doing and he told me in all honesty: I have not slept for five days. It is so hard. So hard. However hard people told me it is going to be – it is seven times harder. Does it ever get better?
I smiled and said: welcome to parenthood! I said it with some gloat and sarcasm, obviously. Then, I comforted him… this too shall pass and it will get better! It will all pass and maybe one day we will miss this. Just not right now.

P.S.: Dads are people too. Just not as much as moms.

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I love you, but I can’t love you all the time

»I love you, mom.« she said.

I said thank you. Then I asked her what it means to love someone. »I don’t know« responded my four year old. And then … and then came the hardest part. I had to explain what it means.

We talk about love on a daily bass, yet it is so untangible isn’t it? Anyway, I proceeded to try.

To love someone is to think about them often, to feel warm right in here (points to heart area) when you think about them. It means that you would do anything for them, added Klemen. It is to want good things to happen to them, for them to be safe, happy and healthy.
That about covers it, right?

When I fell in love with Klemen I actually did not know what I felt. I just felt happy all the time … and I felt secure. I felt sure that we have each other in our minds. We will not let go so easily. It was amazing, it was unprecedented and it was scary as hell. The moment you let someone so deep inside your life, you know what it would mean to lose them. And I did not want to lose him.

I did not want to lose him – ever. And I am sure we sometimes came close to losing each other.
After the crazy infatuation that comes with ‘falling in love’, came comfort, familiarity. I noticed that he no longer occupied my mind 24/7. I was young and very inexperienced and I thought that this was terribly wrong, I no longer had my love under control. It took me some time to realize that loving someone also means that you sometimes don’t love them, you can’t possibly feel it all of the time. Sometimes you envy them, sometimes you despise them, sometimes you just can’t handle them. And that is perfectly okay because you will love them again tomorrow – or the next minute. I have come to realise that life is a palette of emotions and that is what it makes it so extraordinary. It has so many colours.

Falling in love is something that happens to us, but loving someone is a choice. That is what I would really like my daughter to know. There is no natural order in love: a son is not obliged to love his mother and alas, a mother is not obliged to love her child. We choose it, we commit to it and it is damn well worth it.

In the wake of our upcoming nuptials, I think of our love often. How it has changed, but never diminished. Our children have added to it and our hearts have grown in ways we never imagined. I still choose to love him and truly believe that he is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. He gave – and continues to give me so much. He is my breakthrough, he is my life’s turning point. This is something he doesn’t like to hear, understandably, deep down it is a terrible responsibility – to be loved and needed so truly.

Im am grateful to have my family. My family, sometimes I still can’t believe it.

We have created magnificent people and for that I am eternally grateful.

And I will keep choosing him,choosing us … and hope that this choice will be mine to take for many years to come.
(Photo by Eliza, our favorite photographer)

 

Goodbye my Lover

As I was writing this post in my mind today, I kept singing this tacky James Blunt song. You would have mocked me for it, I bet. Even though I clearly remember eight years ago when you were begging me to become just that, like a child asking for a new toy. So, I gave in and that is what we were. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  In our little world of nicknames, hide and seeks, we both found some excitement that our lives had been missing. Of course, as all lovers do, we parted ways sooner than later. Thankfully, it was for the best and we were eventually mature enough to keep it civil right up to a few months ago when you told me bluntly that you were dying.

Ever since I found out about your passing more than a week ago, I have been unable to get you out of my head. Ironically, it is like everything that happened almost a decade ago came back to life. I am not sure why, but I am almost certain that the solution for me is to get it all out. These thoughts have no real basis, they do not belong in my life anymore and have probably grown a bit fake with time and the person that I was with you – although awesome, I must admit – is no longer who I am. But damn, I really do miss her sometimes.

So, in true masochist form I revisited your life in digital form where you are somehow still alive. Then I revisited our history in black and white – all the chats spanning several years. From the hormonal infatuations, explicit desires, friendly date schedules, birthday wishes, thoughts of forgiveness. Photos of my daughter, news of my life as a mom, your wedding and my last wish of recovery. Alas, no miracle occurred. And now you are gone. And I feel the loss of your wife, of your family and of your friends who are now truly poorer for no longer having you in their lives.

Here we are parting again in our private little way. This time I am writing about it publicly because you are not here to stop me. See, we can laugh about it right? Well, you did write me that you missed reading my blogs. Therefore, I guess this one is for you – out there somewhere. And it is also for Klemen who watches me cry every few days and comforts me the best way that he knows. It is incredibly great and patient of him and I am forever grateful to be able to be selfishly myself. See, in the end we all found that one person who would love us most.

As for you, dear reader, do not feel sorry for me. I was never really his and he was never really mine … but for a while there we were ourselves together and it was awesome.

Rest in peace Pij Zlatoust, we will all swim in your sea from now on.

”Milica”

Fight or Flight

dThis is an especially difficult post to write. It is hard to write because it is raw and I don’t plan to hold back. What encouraged me to do it is all the strong women that I have seen coming forward with personal confessions. It was those people who dare to talk about what is socially still a big taboo. It is not easy to come out and say: I am depressed.

Sure, people throw these words around like confetti not knowing what it really means. I know it all too very well.

For me it started showing on our family trip to Thailand. It was supposed to be a wonderful time off, but I had been very worried prior to that. I had made up all sorts of scary scenarios which made the countdown to the day of departure a living hell. I had headaches for months before that, I cried, I panicked… and I ended up going for the sake of us all. To prove to myself an others that traveling with a two-year old is a piece of cake. And it could have been if I could have let go.

But I worry constantly. And I take it onto myself to solve everyone’s problem. This was especially hard when my family lost a member more than a year ago: my brother. Let me be clear, my brother thankfully did not pass away. He did, however, decide to cut us all out of his life: starting with me, my parents, his wife and finally his children. I had adored my big brother and today I don’t even know where he lives. I did try to get in touch, I tried desperately in every way I saw possible. Maybe I tried too much and it ended up with all of us on his blacklist. I don’t know what drove my brother to do this, he never said. And of course, I blamed myself. And I fought, I fought so hard to make it all right again. And I failed.

Everyone kept telling me that I should stop worrying, that I was hurting myself. I chose not to listen, I took a pill for my headache, a pill for my stomach ache, a pill for my insomnia and I kept going. Throwing all the problems somewhere in the back of my head and ignoring them. I did need to be a good daughter, a good partner and a good mom after all.

And then it happened, but not in the way that one could have anticipated. In Thailand, my arms started hurting. Lifting a spoon was like lifting a ton of bricks. And I ignored it. Then I started getting really tired. And I blamed it on the jet lag. And then, I couldn’t blame it on anything else and I started to panic. I really started to panic and to Google my symptoms obsessively. It was all very bad. I was basically dying. This inevitably lead me to see doctors, lots of them. And they all said the same thing: you are healthy. How could I believe them? I felt so badly, so down, so achy … there surely must me something very wrong. Maybe they are just not good enough doctors, maybe it is too early in my ‘disease’ to tell.. maybe, maybe maybe. When I last saw my doctor I broke down crying begging her to give me a diagnosis and some medicine that would fix me. And that’s when she pointed out the obvious: I was anxious and depressed. I have that written down as a diagnosis on many doctor’s reports.

I couldn’t say it was a shock as I was slowly drying out. Unable to eat, unable to think of anything else than my aching body, not being able to look forward to anything, not being comfortable around other people… It was a giveaway. However, I am sure that if you would have met me at the time, I would have greeted you with a smile. That’s the thing with depression, it is an internal disease. It doesn’t necessarily show. It’s a prison that we live in and to the eyes of a relative stranger, it can still look great from the outside. It’s a true physical pain that seems so strong you can’t believe it’s not coming from the body.

The worst part about it? Nobody can help me. Only I can help myself. Blessing and a curse? It sure is. I try not to hide it, I talk about it with people who ask. That is the only way to get better. It makes no sense in faking it.

Somewhere along the line I sadly chose to forget who I was. What made me me. Instead, I took on the role of a mother, of a wife and of a devoted daughter. And then, when I was alone, I did not know what to do. It’s a big change from the cheeky girl that I was. Correction, that I still am. Somewhere.

I have been home for two weeks now. Slowly gaining my appetite and along with it – my strength. I go to therapy, I go to massages, I do breathing exercises, stretching  and I go on walks. When I walk around the woods all by myself, I come across many people doing the same. And I wonder, are we in the same situation? Are we all walking around trying to remember?

Thankfully I have a partner who understands and who enables me to find myself again. Who took on chores that I am temporarily not able to do. I am so grateful. I am grateful for our wonderful daughter who cheers me up, even though she also managed to drain me out.

I am grateful to be alive and to know that I am a fighter. I look for ways to get better, but the hardest thing is to know that it will take time. It is hard to face the fact that I am the one creating this pain – but that is why I am the only one who can take it away.

It is hard to admit that I am flawed. That I am weak. That even though it looks great on the outside, it doesn’t mean that that is the way it is our should be.

It happens. And it will get better. And that’s a promise.

Majda’s sewing kit

My bestest friend Katarina had a mom. Like we all have had moms – or are lucky enough to still have them. Katarina’s mom was called Majda and she sadly died of cancer in her early forties. She was a doctor and a warrior. She battled this fierce disease for a decade, just long enough to see her daughter become a woman. And I am absolutely positive that she would have admired her daughter … and would have been proud of her.

Over the few years I have known Katarina, I have learned a few things about her mom. She was exigent and determined. She was sweet and caring. Someone told me she was the nicest woman he had ever met … and for a long time, she was the love of someone’s life. But then life takes a different turn and great people don’t get to stay with their loved ones forever.

The idea of dying was something that I ran away from as fast as I could. It was – most fortunately – something that I didn’t need to confront in my young life. For a long time I even did not like discussing it, as if it was a disease that I was afraid to catch. One does not talk about death or one will provoke it. At least that is what I thought.

Then I became friends with this girl who had lived through losing her mom at a very delicate age. And she was left alone with a grieving father whose life had been shattered. Katarina talks about her mother with complete honesty. And I ask questions. I want to know how it felt, how it happened and what is to be done when it happens. I wanted the brutal honesty, the honesty that often made me cry and actively feel the loss. Because even if the years pass and the pain fades, the loss is still here.

Story after story,  I am starting to feel like I know Majda as well – or better said – I feel that I am getting to know her little by little. I have met her parents, Katarina’s grandma and grandpa, I have worn her cardigan and read her gardening books. And now that I am a mother, I decided that I want to sew. So, Katarina gave me her mom’s old sewing kit. And when I examine every little item in the box, I feel like a historian getting to know this woman who I will sadly never get to really meet. And I can’t help but wonder – who was Katarina’s mom?

Here is what I found out.

Majda liked sewing. She also liked to keep her clothes nice. If a button fell of of her shirt, she would sew it right back on. She had this little thing that protects your finger while using a needle. She had neat little scissors for cutting the thread – and a white pencil for drawing on fabric. She had tons of different colour threads and elastic bands of different widths. Basically, she had everything that you need to have. Majda was like that, a perfectionist.

original sewing kit

Majda loved her garden. She had all the utensils one might need. And she had books about gardening because she wanted to educate herself on what she was doing. Today she would have probably watched gardening shows or looked for meaningful clips on Youtube. Although I also flipped through these same books, a love for growing plants did not settle in my heart. I did love to harvest the vegetables though. On the other hand, I did not like all the work that this took. Majda loved the work too – because she knew that it takes hard work to achieve something. To achieve anything.

Majda wore about my size, but she was way shorter. She picked her clothes so that they were practical and good-looking at the same time. I have her woollen grey cardigan that I imagine her wearing at work. She put it on when it got cold in the office. I wear it for the same reason.

Majda had a daughter … just as I do. The love you feel for your child is out of this world and I can’t begin to imagine how it must have felt for her all those years when she knew that she will eventually not be strong enough to fight. To be there for the broken hearts, the moments of success … for the grandchildren.

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. But we are still here so let’s be grateful for it, m’kay? That is just the best way to honour it.

And I will get back to sewing. Because I like to sew too. Thank you Majda for your kit, it’s awesome.

 

My Father

How much do you love me, I asked.
More than anyone else, he answered.

I was satisfied with that answer. And even though you know that somebody loves you, it’s nice to hear it often. If I don’t hear it when I need to – I ask.

The game of ‘how much’ and ‘who do you love more’ is a thing that I learned from my father. Even though it was meant primarily as a joke, I often had to answer the question of who I love more. My answers were of course always diplomatic (I am obviously my father’s daughter), but I did adore my father. He was often away, paving his career that would lead him to his dream, and I was always left with a sense of adoration for a man who was handsome, smart, witty … And I was the one who got to have him as a dad!

My father is the kind of person who doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve and emits a sort of rigidity that has scared the hell out of many of my friends when I was growing up. Especially boys. Hm, perhaps that was the goal? But despite of all that, he is one of the gentlest people that I know. Someone really emotional – even though emotions can also turn real sour, real fast.

mala zala

My father is not the kind of person you talk to about your feelings, he is a man after all. But I always know that I can count on him. One of my favorite memories of us dates back 15 years. At that time I was a happy teenager living in a cozy protective bubble, but was often bothered by a sort of uneasiness that I couldn’t quite explain. A sort of longing that had no subject. I never talked to him about it, but whenever I wanted to I asked him to take me out for a drive. I sat in the right hand back seat and listened to music, sometimes for a few hours while he drove us around Copenhagen – through little cobble paved streets, by the sea, pass the lakes and so forth. Not a word was said, except for the ‘let’s go home’ at the end. Nothing actually needed to be said, it was enough to just be. When I moved to Ljubljana soon thereafter, those were perhaps the moments that I missed most. To this day, I love to think back on those hours and feel thankful for them.

Of course, as most fathers and daughters, we also have disagreements … Mostly because I grew up to be just as stubborn as he is. I am lucky enough to have formed my own opinions and ideas, to have grown up into a person that I am really beginning to admire and be proud of. I think I got that from him as well.

But of all things, I am most proud of his achievements and of his relentless courage to reach for his dream. He is the proof that dedication can get you what you really want. However, I also know that that takes a lot of sacrifice and even more sacrifice. He chose a path that I am probably not going to follow, but I respect it and try to encourage him to stay on track.

One of the best and worst parts of growing up is realising that your parents are just people too. They are not superheroes, they are real. Just like us. The most devastating thing here is that your illusions are broken – but the best reward is when you find out that you can be there for them too because you are strong and because you love them. For me knowing that I can help my parents when they are in need is perhaps one of the most encouraging and strengthening processes of my life. It is how I learn to be a good parent in return. Hopefully.

 

 

Our House

kotlje

When they were roughly my age, my parents saved just about enough money to buy a new Lada Samara car. Then someone told them they were selling some land where they could build a house. So, they bought the land – having absolutely no clue about construction. It took them a long time. A really, really long time. And then, sometime in 1998, we moved in. It was summer and we had just returned home from living abroad for four years. The place was empty so we slept on some provisional beds placed in the soon-to-be kitchen. We washed dishes in the bathroom and lived so for a few months. It was awesome.

Today, our house is a place of memories. My old room is full of mementos that help me to cling on to moments whose proof of former life lives only there. Old clothes that still fit me, but my life from that time doesn’t. CD’s notes passed during class, journals, teddy bears, candid snapshots stuck to the walls… You name it.

However, most recently, it has become the home of our family’s precious memories. The place where we had our annual picnics, the place where we were last happy. And together. Things will never be the same again and I guess that is how life goes. No family is perfect and we can never expect it to be. And sometimes the people that hurt you the most are your brothers or sisters – the ones who should love you unconditionally.