Third trimester update, with a brief look back at what was before

love and happiness to come

Did you know that “gift” in Swedish means married and that the same word used as a noun means poison?

My pregnant belly is growing and the nesting instinct has taken over me, so I’ve been burying myself in doing all sorts of stuff and can hardly find the time, but mostly the disposition to write. After a summer full of travels and emotional torment, the urge to settle down has come over me and I seem to be preparing my nest for the little cub on his way. As autumn was approaching and it became increasingly clear to me I cannot travel such long distances anymore, cannot climb mountains or ride my bike, I felt sad for a while and scared. What’s happening now? Am I going to be left behind? Then the desire to cuddle and nest, making plans to redecorate, putting together the birth plan, shopping for the baby, making plans for our new family – all replaced the former travel plans and plane ticket shopping. I can’t say it’s been a smooth transition.

After a very active year, full of journeys (Sweden twice, England, Amsterdam, Greece, mountains in Romania, Bulgaria) and changes (becoming pregnant, moving house, leaving my job), settling down for the autumn and the third trimester poses a bit of a challenge. Especially with that leaving feeling bugging me every time things go different than I want them to go. So I’ve had to convince myself to stay and create tasks to fill my suddenly dilated time, round and spacious like my ever growing belly. Cooking, shopping, cleaning, redecorating, planning, exercising, taking long walks, sewing etc. Reading and writing have proved a little difficult for my agitated mind… Though I’ve always loved the beginning of autumn, calming everything down and lending the eye such warm and soothing colors after the loud and sharp summer notes. There are moments when I feel I have become way too domestic and fear I’m gonna bore myself to death.

I check my body every day and every day I notice changes: my skin is brighter and more beautiful, I am losing much less hair when I brush, my belly is getting bigger and changes shape as the baby changes positions, my breasts have grown two sizes since the beginning of pregnancy and are now letting out drops of colostrum that mark tiny wet spots on my T-shirt in the morning. I haven’t become fatter though and have only put on about 8 kilos in the past 8 months, which is ideal. Still, I feel heavier and the weight of the baby pressing on my bladder makes walking fast a thing of the past. As it does to tying shoe laces or wearing high heels.

On the other hand, I must confess I fear the postpartum transformations – the bleeding, the exploded veins on my legs, stretch marks, cellulitis, my stomach looking like a deflated balloon, milk leaking out of my breasts, dark circles around the eyes from lack of sleep, messy hair, manicure and pedicure, tiredness and depression.

I miss jogging and writing poetry while jogging. Sex is still fairly good, fortunately, though slightly more complicated due to very obvious reasons that we have to accommodate, but I cannot complain. The increased level of hormones has been a bit of a challenge, nevertheless. People in the street never miss my belly and every time I cross the old town I am offered food at the local terraces. When I ride the metro I either get offered a seat right away or not at all, depending on the route and the time. I am amazed by the level of autism the use and abuse of technology has created – everyone is always checking their phone, looking ever so busy and extremely disturbed by the presence of the others.

Speaking about the presence of others, our relationship has been growing alongside my belly and will mature together with the baby we’re raising. I can’t say we’ve had the time to get to know each other too well and this lack of benchmarks on a carefully mapped and controlled territory is making me quite uncomfortable and I still have trust issues. I am a control freak deep down, it’s true. But who asked for adventure?

The latest ultrasound picture, showing my baby boy smiling, leads me to believe he is happy. I wonder what lessons he has for me, what it is that he is bringing with him from back home, what his personality is like, and what he’ll turn me/us into. He’s been modeling me/ us like clay ever since his arrival, so I don’t expect him to stop once he’s born. Quite on the contrary, actually.

I believe it must have been roughly ten years ago when I was actively trying to get pregnant and nothing happened except frustration and disappointment. To be totally honest, I was so scared it might actually happen that every month as  my period was approaching I felt so much anxiety. I couldn’t tell which perspective felt more frustrating – getting my period or not getting it. I got it every month, with the strict regularity of the sunrise, much to my partner’s desperation.

My partner back then really loved me, though. There was absolutely no doubt about that. I was on top of his priority list, I was number one. That made life easier and more comfortable, as I felt relaxed and wanted and special. He used to express his love to the best of his abilities, telling me he loved me all the time, bringing flowers and gifts, writing short poems, preparing surprises, making sure I lacked nothing. And still, we didn’t appreciate our life together. We were so critical, so sarcastic, so sloppy and we gradually grew apart and unhappy. Eventually lack of communication and lies crammed up between us, driving us apart, each with his own separate life, longing for love and authenticity. So, having spent roughly half of my life in that relationship, I left for fear I might wither and die otherwise. And leaving that life behind was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Then my two years of freedom followed, travelling on my own (Hungary, a nomad month in Romania, then England, Sweden,  Norway, Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey) dating, making plans independent of other people’s ideas or desires. Just me and myself and my dreams. It was awesome, I confess. Though it felt lonely only too often, that feeling of freedom was something I just had to experience before committing to a new life. I am not nostalgic, I can still remember very well how my dating life went and what a nightmare it could be at times. Yep, it’s been published in The dating nightmare – and by the way, in the meantime the friend of a friend got married, the two friends I was confessing to have totally disappeared from my life, along with the Turkish physicist, the creepy Canadian (thank God for that!) and the schizophrenic stalker, while the cancer guy with the job interview communication style proposed.

Life has such funny ways! And now it’s all new. ALL of it. So I still get cold feet from time to time and wonder if I’m on the right track. Who can tell? And what does “right” mean, anyway? I’m on the track that I am on, becoming someone new. No turning back. We’ll see where it takes me. From time to time, I am shaken by little earthquakes and start questioning everything again. And still, the baby is here, I can feel him moving inside me and that is the most special thing I’ve ever felt in my life. Maybe it’s weird, but sometimes I still find it hard to believe it’s real…

I am grateful for a beautiful and easy pregnancy so far and I’m so scared more often than I like to admit… But I can honestly say this is the greatest adventure and the most special journey I’ve ever been on. And I still think it’s absolutely miraculous how life goes on, in spite of everything. No matter what you’re going through, the earth keeps moving, the sun keeps rising and setting, people are born and die and life continues through the happiest times and through the most painful dramas. Miraculously.

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PS Took the photo at the National Museum of Literature.

A journey with the little fruitarian runner on board. Day one: Bucharest – Alexandroupolis

The little fruitarian runner starts his morning training just as we get into the car, finally ready to hit the road again. His soft, repeated kicks move me to tears. I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for everything in my life. I must be the happiest person on earth right now and it feels like I am melting into everything, no more borders, distances collapse and we all fuse. I seem to be the only one to notice, the rest of the world simply carries on. But that changes nothing.

The road to the Bulgarian border is short and wet, a blessing after all the heat in Bucharest. And then it takes forever to cross the bridge over the Danube, so we have a picnic in the car right in the middle of it, eating apricots and apples (fruit, of course, for the little fruitarian runner) and admiring the view from above the river. Being suspended on a high bridge over a big river, the car being shaken as if by small, consecutive earthquakes feels a little bit like being pregnant: all control systems are obsolete and each new breath and every passing second bring new experiences. Exciting!

An eternity and a half later, having been angered by the people crouched in their big cars cutting the line at the Bulgarian border, we are finally out of Romania. It’s amazing how different everything feels once you’ve crossed the border of your home country. Suddenly the pressure is off and it feels like karma is finally giving you a well deserved break. Or so it feels to me.

Crossing Bulgaria feels peaceful enough and the traffic is far from busy. Rather the roads seem underpopulated, giving the traveler space to contemplate the green fields, the fat trees and the gray clouds crammed up in the sky, rain pouring down from them in soft, transparent waves of a silk curtain, its hem ardently sweeping the road.

I will not discuss the apparent poverty of the Bulgarian villages, for they are filthy rich compared to the Cambodian villages I traveled through last year. A totally different world. Their simplicity is relaxing to the eye. So interesting how little connection I feel to this country. Not much difference compared to Romania, but still, to me it’s just a land in between, a space to be crossed, not a destination.

Having crossed the mountains through heavy rain and fog descending from the forest like the wise spirits of our deceased Indian ancestors, as we are approaching the Greek border the sun is shining and the temperature is rising. Farmers have already harvested their wheat crops and the lower, drier scenery brings back to memory Greek words and phrases for me to (ab)use in the coming week.

We come into yet another heavy shower as we are crossing the Greek border – a small, old place that appears as a surprise in the middle of nowhere. And the little fruitarian runner starts his afternoon training – a much softer version of his energetic morning training – pulling all my attention to my lower abdomen and bringing back images of colorful fish swimming peacefully around me while snorkeling in the Aegean Sea a few years ago.

Finally, we are in Greece! Back to one of our most beloved homes after a few years of absence. And yet it doesn’t feel like Greece yet. I look around searching for that unique, familiar feeling that softens the tongue as it wrapping itself around every word, sliding against the roof of the mouth with such sensuous determination. It’s still too green, too hilly and too rainy.

But as we are leaving Bulgaria farther behind, Greece gradually becomes more like her old self and l lean back, anxiously waiting for that exciting first glimpse of the sea. And finally the sun! Coming down like a blessing – a huge hand, its fingers all widely spread to reach as wide an area as possible. And there is such stillness. We barely speak a word. There is no need. A while later, old Greek music, with its coarse, serious, masculine tunes, fills the car, sweeping silence away and bringing back impressions from other lifetimes.

And then we get a little lost in a beautiful small village, taking the time to admire tiny, welcoming gardens and wondering where everybody is. Until we pass the local pub and see all the men in the village gathered there, sitting and drinking in silence, staring at the empty road. The women must be cooking dinner in their low ceiling white kitchens overlooking the back yards.

Finding our way again, we are greeted by a spectacular rainbow on the left of the road, before coming right into a storm, equipped with great lightening and all. There is no rush, so we can afford to simply be happy, our quiet company of three.

Alexandroupolis greets us a bit later, with its typically Greek narrow streets and Mediterranean modern architecture and I get my first glimpse of the sea from the harbor, which leaves me a bit unsatisfied. I get consolation by reminding myself I have a full week on an island coming up.

We check out the harbor and find a motorcycling gathering taking place. We locate the ticket office and then head to the camping. We have a ferry to catch tomorrow morning and, after the long drive today, just want to crash as soon as possible.

We put up the tent on soft, muddy ground, next to a beautiful birch tree, in spot 69, a square lined with tall pink rose bays, letting out their discreet sweet scent. Dinner is fish accompanied by butterflies, a black cat and a more rewarding view of the sea.

sea view at the alexandroupolis camping

And we finally call it a day.

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