April 9, 2020

Corona Times - Week two of isolation

I rely a lot on the photos from my phone as the last few weeks have been so hectic, I already forgot what I did. So, as a freelancer my day was similar to what you are all experiencing right now. Waking up early in the morning for social media, meetings after 10 a.m., content creation up to the evening. It was hard to get into a routine and not spent my whole day in my pyjamas, but I did it. Well now throw a daughter and a husband both home into the mix, and some clients who all wanted to communicate in the most creative way that their businesses will change but remain the same, and the worries of the unknown and you get the picture of my first weeks of the pandemic.

We had to negotiate our spaces, I was left with the laptop and the windowsill. We had to negotiate the time spent with Ilinca, fortunately she is a very good child, she sleeps most of the nights, she laughs all day, she is happy and she is growing so fast. So the frustration of having to go back to work so soon after birth was added into the mix.

The second week of our self-isolation was the first week of working from home in Luxembourg, but at the same time, in Belgium was business as usual. So for a few days we lived in three realities, the Luxembourgish one from work, the Belgian one from home and the Romanian one we are still connected to as we have family and friends there. Little by little they aligned as all the countries decided to adopt the work from home strategy in limiting the influence of the Corona Virus.
So first time I went shopping was a shock. There were lines to get into the store and some items were missing and the staff was looking at us as potential time bombs, no one knew what to do exactly and everyone was frightened of everyone. As a joke: Belgian people or people living in Belgium do not know how a queue works, so because I literally never stay too close to the person in front of me, they assume I'm not queueing and they cut in front. I was always frustrated of the situation, especially in the beginning when I could not defend my rights in French. Now, during corona times, everyone is queuing my style and I love it :)
My walking items: sunglasses as coincidentally the sun came exactly as the self-isolation begun and it's been sunny in the area for the past four weeks now, the poo bag for Luna, those were already in my pocket. I've added an extra pacifier for Ilinca and the disinfectant liquid I bought on a limb from DM because it had lavender in it :)
Forgot to say, but the first time I went shopping after the epidemic was declared a pandemic, I felt the need to buy flowers. I usually don't like flowers in a vase, I prefer them in a garden, but as it became clearer and clearer our annual trip to the Netherlands was gonna get canceled, I felt the need to see tulips, so I bought them and then I've ordered online a nice vase :)
At the same time, in my garden Spring was in full swing and the daffodils were as yellow as ever. I remember the first time I came to Ireland it was close to St. Patrick's Day and Dublin was full of daffodils. So for me daffodils are Dublin, St. Patrick and all that atmosphere. BTW this year St. Patrick's Parade was canceled because of Corona :( 
As a journalist turned communicator, I tend to focus on the written word more than the picture or the message per ensemble. So I had a lot of work to do, first with me to communicate properly and every time I see a well communicated message, I notice. That is the case of the European Institutions. 
On the first week of working from home my husband made doughnuts the Romanian style, they were much appreciated.
Violets from our last forest walk
So many choices :D 
Truth is when we heard that the pandemic is coming we only stock up for our daughter. The last time we went to DM in Germany (now Germany is closed for non-essential travel and going to the German supermarkets is not essential, unfortunately) I bought various pampers of different sizes. I guess some people are stocking up toilet paper, we stock up on pampers, it is all in the s**t business :)
From our forest walk
Sunny side of Luxembourg
The first week of self-isolation left me with so many choices and so little time. I've already said I've restarted work, had a daughter and a dog to take care, and all those rules to respect, and so many free books to read or listen, so many free classes I wanted to attend, so many things to DIY... I've appreciated all of them and in that frenzy I've enrolled in a lot of classes, downloaded books and artworks to colour and was left frustrated. Everyone seemed to have it all together at least on social media... believe me I'm not new at this, I've studied it, I know how social media works, but I still got frustrated and depressed. All until I thought I caught the virus and I've said STOP.
For two days I had a runny nose and we feared I got something and that meant staying away from my two months old daughter. You know how hard that is? Well, it is even harder when you live in the same house and you cannot get out not even for a walk.
It was that time the colouring pages shared by the artists I follow on Instagram came in handy, I coloured and sobbed and cried a little.
That was the second week of isolation for me. As usual I'm on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

P.S. BTW did I get it right, quarantine is when you are sick and you are ordered to stay home and avoid contact with other people, self-isolation is what we are all voluntarily doing, that is staying at home, not going out, not meeting friends or family that do not share the same house with us, washing hands, disinfecting every surface, you know the drill. 
Also, covid-19 is the disease and Corona is the virus, right?

April 7, 2020

Corona Times - Week one of isolation

It's almost a month now since we started the lockdown in this area. My phone tells me that on the 10th of March I went for the last time to Luxembourg by train. I know it because I had a doctor's appointment and even then people stopped shaking hands or even kissing on the cheeks. I was alone on the train ride back, not something unseen before, but you could feel the tension in the air. I was happy that for the first time I've payed only 2.50 euros for a trip over the border, because form the beginning of March Luxembourg made all its public transport free.
Then the rumours of total lockdown started to appear and people and companies started getting ready for the possibility. And sure enough, in the coming days only the essential personnel was allowed to physically go to work, as for the others, we were left with working from home.
As someone who was already doing that, I thought I would ace it and still kept my humour on social media, as others started showing initiative 
Over the weekend the notion of keeping the distance was still an unknown one as we went to walk Luna by the lake in Habay where we rarely see people and now we could not get out of the car and could not find even a parking spot, it was that crowded :(
Meanwhile in my garden the first shy tulip was flowering, an event I had to snap. We planted over 50 tulip bulbs, with little hope they will bloom. They did, but for that you have to keep reading.
It was the last time we went to the forest to walk Luna. Soon after all the forest trails were closed and no one was allowed to drive, except to go grocery shopping.
We were really close to the Arlon Carnaval and the Luxembourg Film Fest was in full swing. Spring is maybe the busiest time of the year in this region, we have The Carnaval, The Burning Man, The Film Festival, the Bretzel Sunday, the Emaischen, the first Brocante and many more. Little by little they all got cancelled. Even events that would take place in May were canceled or postponed. A depressing situation and an introduction to what was about to happen.
My phone helps me to remember the weeks spent in isolation at the cause of the spreading of Corona Virus. I am documenting this for the years to come. I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

March 28, 2020

Counting blessings during Corona Times

I will not hide it, it was tough adapting to us both working from home with a tiny human depending on us and with the glooming perspective of Corona hitting our area, but we made it. Two weeks without leaving the house to go to work, two weeks with just one short trip to the grocery store and with only short walks around the house, two weeks without seeing in person our friends or colleagues, two weeks of sharing a desktop, two weeks of checking daily the news and informing ourselves about what are the symptoms, what to do, what freedom we still have left...

If you like us had to adapt during this time, give yourself a pat on your shoulder cause you are a hero, you made it safe and alive.

First of all I am thankful that my family and friends are all healthy and safe and alive. I've watched the news from China at the beginning of February and from Italy now and seeing all that tragedy and suffering, I can only say we are blessed. Yes it is hard to stay inside, yes it is challenging, but we are alive and that is all that matters right now.

I found out we are adaptable. It was rough I tell you, I felt for a short second that we will not make it, everything was bothering me, I wanted to be alone, I felt like my world was crumbling down just because I was forced to stay inside and share my space. Will my husband pick up his empty coffee cup from the desk when I want him to? Probably not. Will I kill him for it? Definitely not. I am a little (for now) OCD and I felt like all I do all day is pick up after him and his daughter and his dog :) That is not true, he helps a lot exactly when I need him to, I just have to find the time to notice that.

So that leads me to the following point, I am grateful we are both home because he prepares or at least he comes with the idea to have lunch every day. When you work from home it is hard to stick to a schedule and I do admit I often had lunch over the keyboard while working. Well because we are both home we both prepare food and we both sit and eat properly.

Because we are both home we share the times when Ilinca is fussy. She is a very good child, but as she can't quite communicate with us, she cries from time to time. Depending on what we are doing at that moment, she is picked up by any of us, that would have been just me if not for covid quarantine.

I didn't get to follow all the online classes I hoped and wanted for this time, but I enrolled in some and found the time to colour some free colouring sheets and take advantage of all the freebies offered to us during the quarantine time. My to do list is still long, but I have time :)

Since I had to rethink my strategy for the foreseeable future, I came up with new projects I hope to put into practice. I don't want to jinks it, but you will be the first ones to find out.

Because everyone is working from home, they have a new appreciation for people who were doing that already such as freelancers and start-ups as myself. Before covid I felt like some of my friends would treat me different because I was working from home, maybe thinking that all I do all day is sit in my pj looking at the window. Now they found out that it is tough to have a schedule, to get out of your pj top at least, to be creative while at home, to know all the gimmicks of home office, to master all the apps and online tools and so on. Even my colleagues felt this sort of appreciation or at least acknowledgement that working from home is still working and not leisuring.

We had a lot of time to spend with Luna. Because of the new member of our family, Luna was a bit neglected, yes she has food and water and walks as before, but dogs need more than the basic. So these two weeks we granted her every wish. She wanted hugs we were there to give them, she wanted out, we opened the door to the back garden, she wanted to play outside, we made time for that too. I think at the beginning she was confused with all of us being home all the time, but now she likes it and she is always near one of us.

Last but not least, I am grateful for the human connection. Beside spending all the time with my family, I was in contact with old, lost friends and colleagues, I asked and was asked if everything was fine, I felt the genuine interest in my well being. I am sure life will change after corona, I only hope it will change for the better.

What about you? What are you grateful for? and what will be the first thing you will do after the lockdown is over?

Raluca @mademoiselle.ralu

The illustration is from Maja Tomljanovic you can find her at @majatomljanovic on Instagram. I love all the artistic vibe this pandemic has brought to the surface, all the classes I've missed from Romania are now online (look for Fundatia Calea Victoriei), actors are making live transmissions on Facebook and Instagram (look for Marius Manole and Ilona Brezoianu) and got creative on YouTube as well (search for Discutabil), artists are making free colouring sheets for kids and adults alike (check out Madalina Andronic). 

March 4, 2020

Ilinca and Luna or small children and dogs

As I've been asked several times what will happen to Luna (our 4 years old, to this date, collie) once my daughter will come into the picture I've decided to write a post about it. The short answer is -  nothing will happen to Luna. The long answer in the following lines.

I have dogs since I was old enough to have an opinion that would count, that being around 18 years old, they were all collies and they were all females. First was Lady rescued from the street, she was pretty old when we got her and she lived with us for almost four years. Then was Dea, we got her from a breeder when she was two weeks old and she was with us for more than 12 years. And four years ago we got Luna. So at this point let me tell you I am more fond of dogs than children, even the ones that I produced.
So to put it in other words, Ilinca, my daughter, came into a house with an existing dog. Either she choose it or it was a coincidence, she has to adapt to it and if genetics indeed have a word to say, she will love dogs as much as I do or my husband does.

Normally I would never recommend parents to get their kids a dog or a cat up until the age of 10 years old OR when they are responsible enough for the new member of the family. Because, if you get a pet for your kid, but you are the one who is walking it, you are taking care that the dog has food and water, you know when to take it to the vet, you actually got yourself a pet. Granted, kids these days are not as free to walk the dog as we were, but at least you see your child involved in everything related to the dog or the cat, the pleasant, cuddling, playing with the dog and the not so pleasant such as picking up the poo or holding the dog while the vet is doing the yearly shots. Because, as it happens many times parents feel overwhelmed by having to take care of the family pet and the pet ends up crowding the shelters. 

But as our situation is different, I can only hope Ilinca will have the childhood I always wanted, with a dog as a best friend, with someone that will always unconditionally love her. And the beginning looks promising :)

As usual you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu let's get the conversation going over there!

P.S. I came across this article and I am sure there are many others on the internet on the benefits of raising children with dogs or cats. The discussion around the topic of getting rid of the family pet when having a baby is too big for this blog. BUT just so you know I think that people who actually do that are crazy to say the least, they are people who never should have pets or kids for that matter.

February 12, 2020

It is important to have a positive birth story

Hi guys, missed me?

I was a little absent from the blog, but with a very good reason. On January 28th I gave birth to my little daughter!🎉🎉🎉
I had a good pregnancy, I have not been sick once during that time, but indeed the ninth month was the hardest. The pregnancy was advanced, I was tired a lot, I had no energy and so all I could do was to binge watch videos on YouTube. Did you know there is such a thing as Vlogmas? Well I've watched all the vlogmas videos I could find, in January :)

But that is over, let's get down to business. A disclaimer first, this will not turn into a parenting/children blog simply because I am no expert in the field. Only from time to time I will post a story or two from my personal experience. And today we are going to talk about positive birth stories.

We met our beautiful daughter at CHL (Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg). It was not my choice, not that I would've been able to make such a choice, we went there because the gynaecologist that followed my pregnancy worked there. I had a c-section, partly by choice, partly by the doctor's choice. It is a long story, which you will probably not read on the blog, but it was my choice and I stick to it till the end and you will see that even with a c-section one can have a positive birth story.

Prior to the date I had meetings with a midwife and the anaesthetist, I could follow some classes (I chose not to as the ones I was able to attend were in French), I visited the maternity ward, but all in all on the date I felt unprepared for what was about to happen. And in all fairness, are you ever prepared for surgery? Or to become a mother for that matter?

So during all these meetings I was explained what was about to happen, how the surgery would go, what will happen after, and was asked what are my expectations. My only expectation was to get out of surgery alive and if possible with a happy, healthy baby. I maintain that was not an unusual requirement, but as other future-moms would opt for hypnosis, or a certain music playlist, or giving birth in water, my request was catalogued as weird.

I was scheduled for surgery on January, 28th, but I only found out the hour of it the day before. As it was at 10 a.m., I would have to come to the hospital in the evening of the day before. I knew that, but as it happened I entered into a state of shock and anxiety and cried my brain out the whole night before and during the preparation for surgery.

In the evening I listened the heart beats of the baby (CTG) and was put a cannula, a plastic tube inserted into my veins and in the morning I would have another CTG (cardiotocography) during which me and my husband narrowed down the baby name list and about 9 a.m. the midwife came to get me ready for c-section. They took me with my hospital bed, down two floors, with a private elevator to the surgery room. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and despite me crying I saw the women that was operated before me and she was happy holding her baby talking with the nurses so different from the wreck I was.

Some clarifications first. Because I was able to by my insurance, I opted for a single room and for my husband to be hospitalised with me. That meant he would spent the whole time in the hospital with me, assist at birth, he had his own bed and his own food. The room was bigger than a hotel room and had all the amenities possible. In the bathroom we had even clothes for the baby, sleeping bags, also for the baby, bibs, pads for me, pampers, cream, sterilised water, a shower, a baby bath, towels...I tell you all you could possibly need. Of course being a control freak, I brought everything from home, but if you are not like me, all you have to bring is your nightgown and some pyjamas for the baby. They even provide you with compression stockings for after the surgery, I bought them as well :). I would advise you to do the same (choosing a single room, that is), even if I saw the double rooms and I can only assume you have the same amenities, it is better to be with your family and with your own business.

So on the date I was taken to the surgery room and my husband was prepped somewhere else. They were even kind enough to send someone to accompany him and again I was with the midwife or with the assistant of the anaesthetist the whole time, they were cracking jokes and assured me over and over again that everything was going to be fine. The anaesthetist came at some point and recognised me and he again explained the procedure. After changing beds, I was taken into a room, I had the anaesthetic and was able to calm down. My gynaecologist came and she was happy which made me happy and confident, then my husband was brought to the room and he hold my hand or my shoulder the entire time and in less than five minutes I've heard her. She was screaming her heart out, which gave her a good Apgar score, she went with my husband and the nurse to be cleaned and then she was brought to me. They stayed with me a couple of minutes and then went into the recovery room. I was sutured and again assured by the assistant of the anaesthetist that everything was fine, the whole time someone had their eyes on me and despite not being with my husband I never felt left alone (one of my other fears).

Within 40 minutes the surgery was over. My doctor and the anaesthetist told me everything went fine and then was taken to the recovery room to meet my husband and daughter. She was so expressive and had her eyes wide open and she was the most beautiful child ever. She was born on January 28th at 10.33 a.m..

The following days came and went and here we are two weeks later, me telling you my birth story. Despite crying and having anxiety attacks before the surgery, everyone was so friendly and I was treated so nice, that I consider my birth story a positive one. And it was, to my standards, I am alive and my daughter is happy and healthy. The operation is healing nicely, Ilinca gained again her birth weight and she now is holding her head, I don't know what that means, but I was told that is a good thing. We had three visits from the midwife and are waiting for the forth and last, we scheduled a visit to the paediatrician and we are on track. We sleep a lot during the night, but mostly during the day, we went out a couple of times, Luna adopted Ilinca from day one and now they are best of friends and overall I had nothing to worry about.

I wrote this article to assure future moms giving birth in Luxembourg that even surgery is not a big deal and that I felt supported all the way no matter my decision. Because that is what I consider important and a positive birth story, to be given all the facts and then to support your choice, either you want to give birth naturally (I saw the rooms and they have all you could possibly want including a giant bath tub to give birth in if that is your choice), or you opt for a c-section, it is entirely your choice as a woman and no one has the right of contesting or questioning it. I've read the statistics and Luxembourg has 30% births through c-section, so what? I don't give a rat's ass about statistics, I was informed and supported, I was the one making the choices and after all it was MY story. If you decide either way about birth, if you decide to breastfeed or not, if you decide to put pampers on your baby or washable nappies, rest assured you will have all the support of the staff and doctors. A least that was my case.

Our lives continue as they were, Ilinca is the forth member of our gang of misfits, we already have our first vacation planned, we socialise and let me tell you, your life is not over unless you let it be over. Yes a child will change slightly your life as you make room for her/him, but your old life needn't be over. As for loving another being apart from your dog and husband, somehow your heart will grow. I love Luna as much as before and I love Ilinca in equal amounts. I think these are the worries of any new-mom. Soon, as I would gather more info I will tell the story of Ilinca and Luna, or of small babies and fur babies.

As usual we can continue the conversation where I am more active lately, so on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu