And absolutely adorable

baby in wrap

Late autumn is the season of death. I can very well remember my previous deaths. Caring for a baby this autumn is a totally new way to die. The best one so far, I’d say. You truly have to kill whoever you used to be. The new you needs none of your former selfish endeavors. The new you has no time to waste. The new you is just happy to be of service.

I’ve read some of my former writing pieces and I wonder if I’m ever going to be that good again, if ever again I can focus on something else than diapers, breastfeeding and the lack of intimacy in what used to be a (more or less) romantic relationship. And still, as I’m writing this, I feel it’s not entirely accurate. It’s just that I’m going through changes and until the storm has settled I cannot find my new voice (too much noise to hear myself write). Old structures are falling, new ones are being erected and all this time I’m taking long good looks in the mirror.

“Look at you”, a friend says when she comes to visit, “You don’t even look like you’ve given birth! You’ve lost so much weight!”

And yes, that’s so comfortable. I put on very little weight during pregnancy and in the first few days after delivery I quickly went back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I do feel somewhat attractive, but still feel my whole body is just being used by this growing creature, losing its former glory and attractiveness. Nevertheless, it has gained tremendous force trough birth, I think. And a newly found respect for its wonderful strength and endurance.

“You’ve really got someone now, you’ll never be alone again”, she continues as we’re walking out of a shop late in the afternoon, in the noise of the crazy rush hour traffic.

Then what’s with the lump I keep feeling in my throat? What’s with the chest pain? What’s with the longing? I wonder… There must be something wrong with me. Where is my beloved? Who am I still waiting for? What/ who is still missing from my life?

It’s nothing, love, it’s just baby blues. Yes, again… You should be glad it’s not postpartum depression, my inner shrink goes off as soon as I’m quiet again.

Fuck it, I break out. I’m tired of this. Fix me already! Am I not over this already? I’m getting bored of this shit. I feel too much.

I decide to end my blog post here, but I open my pdf copy of Forty rules of love at page 300 (I decide it’s the number for October 30, my and my son’s birthday) to see what Elif has to say about it:

“The town had finally gone to sleep. It was that time
of night when even the nocturnal animals are reluctant to
disturb the reigning peace. It always made me both
immensely sad and elated to listen to a town sleep,
wondering what sorts of stories were being lived behind
closed doors, what sorts of stories I could have lived
had I chosen another path. But I hadn’t made any
choice. If anything, the path had chosen me.
I remembered a tale. A wandering dervish arrived
in a town where the natives didn’t trust strangers.
Go away!” they shouted at him. “No one knows
you here!
The dervish calmly responded, “Yes, but I know
myself, and believe me, it would have been much
worse if it were the other way round.”
As long as I knew myself, I would be all right.
Whosoever knows himself, knows the One.
The moon showered me with its warm glow. A light
rain, as delicate as a silk scarf, began to fall on the
town. I thanked God for this blessed moment and left
myself in His hands. The fragility and brevity of life
struck me once again, and I recalled another rule: Life
is a temporary loan, and this world is nothing but a
sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would
mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human
beings either become infatuated with the toy or
disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this
life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they
will destroy your inner balance.
Sufis do not go to extremes. A Sufi always
remains mild and moderate.

As I’m bouncing on the fitness ball with him in my arms at 3 am this morning, I’m going through my memories of labor again. He’s one month old today. I take one more look at him and all my complaints fade in the face of his perfection.

Send him to me. I want to be found.

“So, do you want to go this way?” he asks, pointing right, to a direction we have already taken so many times – a walk along busy alleys between blocks of flats, nothing spectacular or even remotely pleasant. “Or that way, to the nature park?” he decides to offer another option – a 15 minute walk to the nature park close by (a former waste ground, now a protected area in a concrete enclosed space that  was supposed to become a lake in communist times).

We’re finally out on our daily walk, having fed and changed the baby several times today already and successfully dressed him and placed him in the carrying system. It’s a windy day, colder than the previous one, cloudy and dark. Winter is coming, as everyone so famously and predictably says these days.

“That way…” I reply sighing and I cannot help thinking about my journey this time last year, a week on my own in Turkey – Istanbul, Konya and Cappadocia. Each day was an adventure I wrote extensively on my blog about. A single woman, travelling in Turkey on her birthday, right after a bike crash that left her face badly bruised and  scars on her left hand and right knee that are still visible today.

“Turkey looks so clean and cold, hard, shiny and dangerous like the freshly polished pipe of a loaded hunting weapon being held by the big, strong hands of a psychopath with the sharp mind of a genius. Its people are still wearing golden rags of former glory, busy making ends meet and shattering distances at any costs. No one is alone here. Ever. Pain is hidden under the hijab or crushed in clenched fists, stuffed with sugar, smoked, washed down with cay or coffee and, secretly, alcohol. See, nothing separates us. We are all the same. Fear is no more than a virus we get while navigating news channels, never while traveling the world. ” I used to write during my coach ride from Konya to Cappadocia – Settling karma and travelling to Goreme.

Or my last day in Konya before returning to Bucharest, when social media was down due to political trouble and tension in the street was leaking like blood from a fresh corpse dropped in the ocean, sending its scent to hungry sharks swimming miles away:

“I picked a bad time to be a writer in Turkey. I quickly evaluate my situation: I have just upset an influential hotel owner in Goreme who used to be a cop in Istanbul and brags about owning a gun and doing cocaine, informed me he has a copy of my passport and my fingerprints, along with perfectly valid DNA samples and threatened to stage a crime for me so that I won’t be able to leave Turkey; all with a smile on his face. (Did I decide to solve all my karmic issues by the end of this year, by the way? I wonder…) Let’s go on now, that was not everything: I am a single woman traveling alone in Konya, the most religious and traditionalist city of Turkey, where almost nobody speaks English. But let’s not get paranoid, shall we? I made an unfortunate choice of European clothes. Otherwise I look Turkish enough. Though I am not sure that is so good now, either… And can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye, ‘thank you’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘honey’. That should do. So I hide my map in my pocket, put my leather purse in my backpack and head to Rumi. This is a holiday, after all.” (My last day in Konya and Turkey goes crazy again)

praying outside mosque in konya turkey

Today my whole universe is in this two room apartment and the surrounding area where I take daily walks. My small, domestic universe is populated by only two people – two very special boys that I love. Still, the scarcity of the population around here makes every disappointment a tragedy. If this time last year every day brought new people and new adventures to write about, now breastfeeding takes up most of my time and the most breathtaking adventures are adjusting the baby in the carrying system, clipping his nails while he’s sleeping, feeding him at night while fighting sleep, backache and frustration, bathing him and watching his beautiful face all the time.

The first two weeks were like a honeymoon. Never before had I been so happy. Well, a sort of a honeymoon… Since, well… How are we to survive these first few weeks of change and adjustment without sex? My midwives were amazed at the tonus of my perineum (no tearing despite the prolonged expulsion and a very good condition right after birth and in the following days). Well, ladies, to be perfectly honest, it’s sex. Sex has contributed greatly to its good shape. It’s true Kegel exercises have been part of my life for years now. Best done, you guessed it, mostly during sex. It’s already been a week since I feel I cannot wait any longer. It’s too long…

Anger one day was soon followed by sadness the next day. No reason. Well, except for the huge changes and the domestic confinement that’s totally new and hard to bear for someone who’s saved only for plane tickets for the past two years.

“Yes, but we’re going to travel again”, says my life partner, travel companion and the father of my baby.

“Yes, eventually…”, I reply feeling more confident than it sounds.

“And breastfeeding is also temporary, it’s going to end too…” he adds more hesitantly.

“Of course it will… In about two years or so…”, I answer trying unsuccessfully to make it sound light and funny. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it and would not give it up, it’s just that it seems to take up so much time and on such long term…

“We’re here for you”, he continues, holding my shoulders and planting warm kisses on my face. “And look how cute he is, really”, he adds pointing his head at the baby, still naked and all wet from the bath, wrapped up in towels and cuddled in my arms, sucking on my right nipple.

And he’s right. But that only seems to add to the sadness at this point. Caressing his soft thigh, I’m thinking he was inside me, he grew from such a small cell, my body fed him, my flesh made his. And here he is now, so grown in my arms. And he’ll continue to grow and will gradually become independent and start his own life, away from us. And he’ll outlive us. And I love him so much. And yet I still don’t really know him very well. He’s so wonderful, so luminous, so perfect. How will I ever be able to let go?

“Over 85% of women go through some form of postpartum emotional imbalance”, my notes from the Lamaze course remind me. I’m lucky I have this rational part that’s always awake and alert (well, it did make labor longer, but in general it tends to keep me safe).  I do a quick self evaluation and decide it’s not depression, but a mild case of baby blues. All normal. Just relax, I tell myself and the lump in my throat gets heavier. I go through my essential oil basket and find something that should help and then I also find a homeopathic remedy that seems to fit the symptoms. I’m pulling myself out.

Still, before going to bed I browse through my T-shirt stash and find the one I got in Thailand, at the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. A very ugly white T-shirt with a colorful print of the royal palace. Last year in February. I am standing in line to visit the chapel, surrounded by a loud crowd of Chinese tourists pointing their cameras everywhere and stretching out their selfie sticks to take one more photo of their faces projected over the whole world cut to pieces.

One of the security guards, wearing military clothes and waving his gun left and right, comes to me barking some order in Thai. Since I don’t understand a word, he uses firm gestures and a wave of his gun to get me out of the line. I am wearing a sleeveless shirt and my huge blue shawl wrapped around my shoulders doesn’t fool the guard’s vigilance. It’s over 40 degrees Celsius. This is how I end up with the ugly T-shirt from the gift shop in the palace garden. It’s the only choice. I pay for it, turn my back to the crowd, facing a dirty wall behind the counter, take off my sleeveless shirt and put on the ugly new Thailand T-shirt. I find it disturbing that it doesn’t match my trousers at all, but end up wearing it inside one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. I leave my sandals by the door, in the big pile of shoes resting there, covered in sweat and dust, and wonder if I’m going to still find them there when I get out, but decide it’s worth walking barefoot the rest of the journey to Cambodia if necessary.

royal chapel of the emerald buddha bangkok thailand

The feeling is overwhelming and once I get in front of the emerald statue covered in golden raiment, my knees bend of their own accord and my eyes close. I don’t know how long I spend kneeling on the cold marble floor, surrounded by the loud crowd, before stepping outside into the heat of the sun again. So tonight I’m going to bed wearing this ugly white T-shirt which the emerald Buddha saw me wearing that day in Bangkok. So yes, I do miss being on the road.

PS The title of this post is from a ‘dialogue’ I had with Shams at his tomb in Konya – The day I leave Konya Shams does some magic.

PPS At the end of my post about my home birth – 35th birthday journey of initiation: the story of my home birth – you can find a list of links to all my posts about my last year’s birthday journey in Turkey.

35th birthday journey of initiation: the story of my home birth

“Cristi, please get me a towel.” I whisper, petting his shoulder.

It’s about 1.30 am and I’ve just come to bed after a busy day, finishing most of the tasks I’ve set for myself on my long, pre-birth to do list.

“Err… a towel, yes… a towel…”, he answers, falling back asleep.

“Will, you please get me a towel?” I insist, still managing to keep my voice low.

“Ihim…”, he answers falling back asleep once more.

“If you don’t get up to get me a towel NOW, we’ll soon both be in a big puddle”,  I explain.

“Yes… Where from?” he asks eventually getting up and standing beside the bed.

“From the towel drawer”, I answer realizing he’s still half sleeping. “The second one from the top.”

“Here you are”, he says as he hands me two towels, still folded.

I take them and shove them under me, carefully lifting my hips from the warm puddle I’ve made under me. I can still feel the soft, warm liquid streaming out, warming up my thighs and my lower back. So… this is how it feels, I say to myself. I’ve always wondered what it feels like and was a bit worried it might happen while I’m on the street or riding the metro. And I was secretly hoping it might be just a small stream only I would be aware of, that could pass by unnoticed util I get home.

“Are you ok?” he asks, still sleepy.

“I think so”, I reply and notice the excitement in my voice as I giggle.

“Come closer to me, so that you don’t sleep on the wet spot”, he says and I know he still hasn’t realized what’s happened.

“I don’t think I can sleep now… I mean… I don’t remember how long it lasts now before the contractions start, but I don’t think it’s so long and I doubt I can sleep…” I explain avoiding to break it to him that my water’s just broken.

It’s only then that the reality of the situation dawns on him and he suddenly feels so unprepared. I can feel he’s awake and alert now, going over what he still hasn’t found the time to do: reread the Lamaze course support, install a contraction timer app, put batteries in that flash light and I don’t even want to know what else…

Contractions start shortly and they’re still bearable, so I can afford to laugh in between them, remembering his initial reaction and confusion at the news. I soon find it annoying when he turns on the light and starts doing research on his phone. But his big eyes looking at me in awe have a calming effect and I advise him to relax and just be there for me, supportive and affectionate – that’s all I need.

I feel we’ve had all year to prepare and here we are, caught it seems a bit off guard. I was really hoping the baby might wait another week or at least a couple of days more, despite all the signs I had announcing birth, just to give me time to feel more prepared. And was also thinking it might be kind of cool to give birth on my birthday. I was actually thinking this might be the trip I’d take this year: a real journey of initiation – birth.

I get into the warm bath and water has such a calming effect. I ask him to sit by me and just stop thinking about what to do. When I get out, contractions become stronger and I decide it’s time to call for help. We do that and help is on its way, in a different team than initially planned, but we would learn that only later.

My initial thought as labor begins, that it would be short and intense, gradually proves to be half right – it’s long and intense. And as it progresses, many worries and thoughts come and pay brief visits – everything that’s ever bothered me in our relationship, a tendency to rationalize everything, as well as feelings and thoughts I pick up from my helpers. There’s a lack of cohesion in the team and we don’t seem to be on the same page. We do have the same purpose – the safe delivery of my baby, but we seem to have different visions as to how this can come about. Yet I will only become aware of this later, when I look at the experience in hindsight, trying to put things together and make sense of everything that’s happened.

There’s just the fear of pain briefly visiting me as expulsion begins, otherwise anxiety and fear are just passers by in the room, invited by some of my helpers. I try to close the door on them and focus on what I have to do, but I was educated to be a good host, to welcome guests and attend to their well being, so turning my back on them proves to be a bit of a challenge.

“We are one, I am one with it”, I’m thinking and feeling as each contraction takes over my body, leaving me more and more exhausted and teaching me about releasing control. Despite the excruciating pain and occasional feelings of helplessness, I have never felt stronger in my life. It’s true what they say: you do get such a wonderful feeling of empowerment, a feeling that if you can do this there’s nothing in the world that you cannot do. You can do anything.

Nevertheless, as I’m going through contraction after contraction, I am also visited by the thought that you must be crazy to ever what to go through this again. “Three kids?! Jesus Christ! If we adopt the other two, maybe…” I remember saying to myself, sitting on my knees on the bedroom floor, feeling cold and warm at the same time, sweat running all over me as if I’ve just showered, getting ready to survive through one more contraction.

“But you wouldn’t do it again”, my mother tells me in her most self assured voice when I call her on her birthday, just four days later, and she decides to start a conversation about her own fears. What is it that makes dropping their fear bundle over you so irresistible to people? I wonder… Can’t they just mind (or heart) their own fears themselves?

“Yes, I would, actually”, I quickly reply, surprised by my own determination.

“Really?!” she says. “And you wouldn’t change anything?” she insists.

“Well, yes, I think I would. I would still give birth at home, but I would change a bit the organisation, the plan, and alter the team membership, I think.

“Of course. You wouldn’t want Cristi there again”, she replies as if throwing a poisoned arrow at me. Poisoned by her own bitter life experience.

“What do you mean, mom? Of course I would want him there. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel that having this experience together has brought us much closer that anything else could have. It has changed each of us profoundly and has taken our relationship to a whole new level. I know your opinion on men being present at birth, but it’s YOUR opinion, not mine”, I explain and I know I have shocked her again, forcing her to look at life from a perspective totally outside her experience.

Now, a week later, everything is changed. Every day brings changes and is so different that anything I’ve ever lived before. I’ve never been so in love. Nor have I been so amazed before. And although I’ve spent almost the whole year carrying this baby inside me, witnessing all the changes and every day of his growth, I still find it miraculous that I can now hold him in my arms. All we did was love each other – me and his father. And we got this amazing gift that’s beyond anything we could have ever hoped for.


I love it that he takes so much after his father and looks like a little dwarf and he smiles so much. I am reflecting on impermanence and the changing nature of things and I am contemplating the fact that he’ll never be this young again and he’ll never be inside my womb again and he’ll continue to grow and all this attachment, after all the build up, will have to gradually diminish and it already feels difficult.

I’m also reflecting back on the whole birth experience and, trying to understand why expulsion was so long and difficult for me, I remember I was pushing and was not actually visualizing pushing the baby out. It was as if there was a barrier I was setting up, a stop sign. I could easily and relatively quickly get to the pushing stage, but not through the pushing stage. How can I push out someone I never want to be away from? On the other hand, how can I open myself so much? How can I become so vulnerable? How can I give in so much? How can I put myself so much in the hands of my caretakers?

So, right at the end, as the baby’s head starts coming out, everybody in the birth team comes together in a mutual effort to safely deliver this baby right here and now. And I feel no one is thinking about going to the hospital anymore and we are beyond the question of using or not using the birth pool or of what other homeopathic remedy to take, beyond the choice of mantras, essential oils or energy work techniques. Everyone is contributing to the miracle of bringing this new person into this world and there’s such strong support from above. Here and now. And this time is so precious, when everything else just vanishes and we’re all here and now, united in the same effort. When I finally hold my baby and feel his warm, wet skin against mine, after about 14 hours of labor and a sleepless night, I know it was all worth it and all the pain and the exhaustion quickly vanish, replaced by pure bliss.

Now we float above the world in this hot air balloon, the three of us, as if on an early morning on a journey in Cappadocia – the land of beautiful horses. This is how my baby’s heart sounded throughout labor – like the hooves of a beautiful young horse running up a hill, over a fresh green pasture on a wet morning. What else could make me happier on my birthday?

Here are the posts about my birthday trip last year: