My Giving-birth Story. Part 1

29 January 2009; around 4 o’clock in the morning. 2 weeks before our expected due date.


A normal winter morning, and most people must’ve been fast asleep, but I was sitting on a chair at a small dining-table-turned-office-desk in our little studio-flat in Belgium.

Surfing through my facebook news-feed page, the blue-pregnant-lingerie I was wearing was wet from waist down, so were my panties, so was the chair I was sitting on…, and there’s a puddle of water on the floor –around my left foot.

Yes, my water broke about ½ hour earlier and it gushed down my left leg and formed the afore-mentioned puddle on the floor, wetting my lingerie, my panties, and my dining chair on its way down.

When we were pregnant

While it might seem odd to check one’s facebook while one is in labour… at that precise moment, I couldn’t think of anything better to do whilst waiting for my husband getting ready for the hospital run (it was winter, so getting ready means thermal undershirt, sweater, boots, shawl, gloves, etc)

My peaceful facebook surfing was disturbed by my husband irritated voice. “Are we giving birth or not…?!” He was all togged-up in his winter jacket and sweater, tapping his fingers against the kitchen sink with an ‘are you kidding me…!?’ look on his face.

So then…, ladies and gentlemen, I got myself ready for the hospital. (I was not efficient. I know, but let’s move on… :D)

— o —

I thought it was going to be all fast, and hectic, and frantic, and busy when my water breaks. (Just like in those Hollywood movies we’ve seen around.) But that was not the case for me. When my water actually broke, I strangely felt calm and content… perhaps because I had been through 2 miscarriages before.

Calm was not how I’d describe my husband though. He was nervous and highly strung. He was worried that we might get stuck in a traffic jam. (Yeah right… a traffic jam in Brussels at 5 am?)

So he hurled his pregnant wife in a VW Passat –company car. He drove so fast through the empty roads of Brussels, leaving skid-marks on every turn, checking his watch every 5 minutes. 🙂

We didn’t talk to each other at all on our way to the hospital. It was too intense… at least for him. 😀 Poor thing…

The first contraction was when we were at the parking basement of the Hospital. This is it, I thought. Standing still, and bracing myself to cope with the pain, my husband didn’t understand why I should stop to do that.

“Shouldn’t we just run up quickly and see a doctor or a midwife to check on you?” He said.

Oh men… ! They don’t know anything about labour pain do they? 😀

It was all very, very, sweet though…, being a Mr.Cool-At-All-Time that he is, I enjoyed looking at my husband’s worried face and hearing his snappy impatient tone. It was endearing to see how worried he was and how frustrated he seemed.

What was happening was beyond his control. There was not much he could do to help me. It was just me, myself and my uterus at that point, and I think he hated the thought of not being able to help much.

— o —

Greeted by a midwife who spoke only French, I started feeling anxious. My husband squeezed my hand firmly. The midwife put her fingers into my birth canal, and then… smiled.

She asked my husband to pass her a stainless-steel bowl (all said in French). She put the bowl under my… uhm… crotch… and pulled her fingers out slowly, and with it came gushing down what seemed like tons of water –filling the bowl in no time.

“3 cm cervical dilation. She is in labour, we’ll check you in.” She gave me a hospital robe and there began the adventure.

It was still very early in the morning, if everything was going to go textbook-like, we were informed,  we should have ‘our new bundle’ by noon, or afternoon.

We were so excited…. But as it turned out, things were not straight forward. My labour had to be induced –twice, and a whole set of doctors (head of OBGYN, anaesthetist, neurologist, and some resident-doctors) came in and out of the delivery room.

I will tell you the rest later. To be continued… 🙂

Dian Retno Wulandari. Reminiscing away…

PS: It was my son’s 2nd birthday a few days ago, and I spent the last few days feeling nostalgic, thus my writing this post. 🙂

PPS: The pregnancy was conceived in Indonesia, but I spent most of my 1st trimester in Canada, most of my 2nd trimester back in Indonesia again, and most of my 3rd trimester in Belgium. My son is a world traveller even before he was born. 🙂

PPPS: Our pregnancy was not categorised as high risk, but a normal delivery (non-caesarian) for someone with a spinal condition like me could be categorised as high risk. Luckily we were handled by some of the best doctors and midwives in Belgium.

We Are All Just Bees

Am I a secretary to my husband, or am I a boss to him?

In this era where gender equality is still being fought-for, I would understand when people think that a husband is the boss and a wife is the secretary.

It’s untrue. I know…! Right?

Nevertheless, when I deal with people, and they get exasperated with me, the first thing they would say is: “Can I speak to your husband…?”

As if saying: “Can I speak to the restaurant manager? I don’t want to speak to a low-life-waitress like you!”

Nothing…

I mean…

NOTHING... would anger me more than that… as if I am just a daft bimbo…?  (As if I have big enough breasts to be a bimbo anyway?)

  1. One time (and still on-going) I got into a difficult conflict with the visa center in Ghana of the UK Border Agency. After a long tiring discussion, the officer said, “Perhaps you can come again with your husband, tomorrow?” (!!@#$$%^%$$#@#!!) Ha…! As if my husband would know what to say and what has happened… I single handedly dealt with everything!
  2. Once, a Ghanaian plumber came to our house to fix the washing machine tap. Apparently he refused to take order from me because I was only a woman. He demanded to speak to my husband and so he started to talk shit to me. Needless to say, I called the building management and had that ‘God-forsaken-plumber’ fired at point blank. He shouldn’t have messed with me.
  3. Well, many other examples but I won’t waste time on them.

I am the brain of the family. Yes, that sounds arrogant, and… trashy, but I am. 😀 (I can feel my husband is rolling his eyes behind my back, but let him be)

My husband always comes to me when something needs deciding or when something needs considering or when something needs taking into action.

But why?

It’s not because he’s telling me to do those things, as in: “Oi! Secretary! Come here! I need 4 copies of these documents!”

Everything is more like “Excuse me boss… do you think I need to make 4 copies of these documents?”

😀 😀 😀 😀

He appreciates my opinions. He needs my approvals. -Oh bless his heart… 😀

Once, my husband told me that he is just like an old faithful dog. He only needs a little love to keep him going. -Oh let’s bless his heart even more…! 😀

But nobody is the faithful dog, nobody is the master. Nobody is the boss, nobody is the secretary. We are all just bees in the end. We carry around some little mud with us, we then build a bee hive where there are flowers nearby, and we live happily ever after in that little hive.

My husband happens to be the worker bee.

And I am the Queen bee.


With our little son as a wanna bee.

“bzz….. bzz…. bzz….”

Dian Retno Wulandari. Gender equality, ah… taste the sweetness!

PS: Later that evening, the plumber called my husband and had some man-to-man conversation. The plumber told him that his wife is a bitch. *LOL*

PPS: Do I really look like a daft bimbo? Or does this happen to every housewife??

What a Ghanaian Schoolboy Showed Me: The Ogling Business

My husband has long told me that many Ghanaian men would stare at me in an obvious-creepy-manner. Almost shamelessly… or better: proudly. To put it shortly, my husband often tells me that some man is ogling me (since we’re in Ghana, that is).

Isn’t he sweet… –my husband? I always thought that he would say things like that to help me feel beautiful or sexy or interesting. But I knew better. Such thing is impossible. Not because Ghanaian men don’t ogle, oh they do. The Ghanaian men would ogle the Ghanaian ladies in their super tight clothings, and the Ghanaian ladies would know that they are being ogled, and play along by smiling flirtatiously, or fiddling with their stylish hairs, or moving around in the most interesting manners. I have watched such behaviours between Ghanaian men and women happened in the mall, restaurants, clubs, alliance francaise, etc.

Anyway, despite my being familiar to the Ghanaian ogling business, I couldn’t believe it when my husband said that I am being ogled quite frequently. As I said before, such a thing is impossible. Why is it impossible, you ask…? Oh, don’t make me explain.

See, people ogle Angelina Jolie’s smoldering look.

Or people ogle Meriah Carey’s voluptuous boobs.

But surely people won’t ogle me.

That photo of me above, was taken last Sunday, yes… only 2 days ago, taking my son for a little trip around our compound. That is how I look these days: a very comfy t-shirt, shorts or jeans, and a pair of flip flops. My dress code for most occasions.

Now tell me, who would ogle me…? You wouldn’t, would you? I can imagine I could get some well-deserved-disgusted-stares from fashionistas out there, but definitely not an ogle. 🙂

Having said all that, little did I know what was about to happen a few days ago.

— A Few Days Ago —

So off my husband and I went to Accra Mall –to do our weekly grocery shopping. He parked our car near Gate 1. We walked from our car to the gate, holding hands as usual, complaining about the dust as usual, and having our little conversation as usual (about quantum physics, numeric trigonometry, DNA mutations, bla bla bla mundane stuff).

Just before we reached that God-blessed-gate, my husband jolted my hand and abruptly stopped. I was stunned for a few seconds, but before I knew what was happening I heard my husband was talking to a schoolboy who stood –strangely– very near to me with a big grin on his face.

He must be about 12 yo, or 14 max. Perhaps about 5 cm shorter than me (and I am not tall, mind you). He was wearing his school uniform, a white shirt, and a pair of dark shorts.

I vaguely noticed that a group of schoolboys were walking in the opposite direction, but I didn’t pay attention to any of them. But my husband obviously did. He said to the boy, “Do you know her??” pointing a finger at me. I stood silently, flat faced, bewildered.

The boy, with a big grin on his face shook his head and said, “No”

My husband turned to me and asked, “Do you know him??” to which I answered “No”.

This is weird, I thought.

All that time the boy managed to keep the grin on his face. He looked somehow amazed at what he was looking at (that’s me, fyi). The look on his face was priceless.

Trying to be polite, I took my sunglasses off, and calmly said, “How are you?”

At the very sight of my-uncovered-eyes, his own eyes were widened, and his big grin got bigger, and he just stood there marveling at me (or so it seemed). He nodded as a response to my small talk. Not the right answer for a ‘how are you’ but he was probably off somewhere else in his head. 🙂

Never will I say that I have pretty eyes, but they are the best feature of my face (I think), and to make things clear, let me describe how I looked that day we met the boy. I was wearing a loose comfy t-shirt. A pair of tatty jeans. A pair of worn out flip flops. No make-up none whatsoever. I didn’t even brush my hair, it was simply tied back to a simple pony tail. Suffice to say that I was not dressed to impress.

To break the awkwardness, my husband suddenly said in a light-hearted tone, “Isn’t she the most beautiful woman in the world?” (I kicked him –furtively– for saying that) 🙂

The boy, still oddly grinning, raised both hands and gave us 2 thumbs up! He said, “Yes!” promptly and nodded vigorously (still grinning, mind you).

I got shivers down my back, and cued my husband to move on to the gate and leave the poor thing alone. I put my sunglasses back down on my face, and casually walked away from the boy taking with me my sometime-hard-to-believe husband.

At the gate, I curiously turned my back to see if he was still there. Lo and behold, there he was. Standing still, facing towards me (still grinning!), not caring that all of his friends were already along way ahead of him.

So my husband was right. I do get ogled sometimes. 🙂 But the whole experience lit a light bulb inside my head. All the things about how the Ghanaians would be so generous with their expression to the beauty in the world.

The morals of the story are:

  1. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. 🙂
  2. If something is beautiful, don’t be afraid to marvel at it. If something is attracting you, let the world know it.

I remembered how many times I have been stopped by strangers at the market (in Makola) just so that they could tell me that they think my bracelet is pretty. I remembered how many times my maid told me that she thinks some of my shirts are nice. I remembered how many times the nurse at my chiropractic stroked my hair and said it’s beautiful.

Yes, marveling the beauty of God’s creation is not a sin, and the Ghanaians know this since a very young age. God bless the Ghanaians. 🙂

Dian Retno Wulandari. Lessons learned.

Kissing Vodafone-Ghana Good Bye

Let’s write about something light-hearted for once in a while, OK?

Vodafone Ghana Transmission Staff

My throat is sore, and I can’t stop sneezing. When I looked out of the window this morning, everything looked hazy, and visibility was impaired. Sahara is in the air.

It’s the peak of the Harmattan season where the wind blows to the south and brings the Saharan sand with it. Some of that sand got stuck in my throat and won’t ever make it to the Atlantic Ocean. Poor little sand… 😦

Alix in African SuitSo I thought today was going to be a bad day, but as the day unraveled itself I found it as one of the most memorable days in my life. My husband’s contract with Vodafone-Ghana is coming to an end tomorrow, so my son and I were invited by his staff to a little farewell party.

It is always heartbreaking to leave a country you’ve called home for many months. Sometimes it is not the country per se, but more of the people we’re leaving behind (having said that -I do miss the Brussels metro). Oh the pain of packing a home into boxes… Hmm… … …

But let’s stick to the sunny side of the road for now… 🙂

The Vodafone bunch who arranged this parting-get-together are some of the best bunch we’ve ever met. Typical Ghanaian, they are always so welcoming, and having fun, and happy, and oh… did I say that they have the most generous laughter? Well, they sure do. 😀

Great African foods were laid out on the table, moving emotional speeches were made, jokes were laughed at, and reminiscences were cherished. But most importantly, they got a present for me 🙂 Oh yes! Some African fabric, beautiful and colourful, and on top of that, they also got my husband an African shirt, and some cute African suite for our toddler. (Have I said the word ‘African’ too many times?)

Isn’t it a happy thing… to be happy with people around you even though you don’t know them that well or at all? Like when you dance in concert with others, or like when children play in a sand pit. It was hard to decide though on whether I was happy or sad to be at the farewell little party. But I guess it doesn’t matter.

Every time we leave an old place to a new territory, I always feel like I bring some of that old place away with me, and I hope our presence can make as much as an impact to the place we leave behind. At least we knew that after we brought Cecilia to London, she suddenly applied to study at a Nursing Academy as soon as we got back to Ghana. She said she wants to be a nurse, and that she doesn’t want to be a maid forever.

Well, I’m proud of her. I’m sure as hell, my husband is also proud of his staff. These people are going to go a long way… even after we’re gone.

Geraint & Ulan in African Cloth

Dian Retno Wulandari.

PS: Thanks to: Afuah, Armstrong, Emmanuel, Henry, Iris, Jerry, Martina, Kumi, and everyone else that made this happen.

PPS: Cecilia is our current maid-turned-nanny. She’s not the one who pissed in our car. Just so you know… 🙂

PPS: My husband was technically asleep when we took that last photo above. Poor man… tortured by his wife for blogging sake. 🙂

Indonesian Mother’s Day: Better Than The Western Mother’s Day

As some of us know very well, mother’s day falls on different dates for different countries. In Indonesia, it falls on the 22 Dec every year. That is today.

As an Indonesian, I have said “happy mother’s day” many times since I was a little girl. To be quite honest, I couldn’t wait for the day to come where I would be the one receiving the mother’s day wishes, and that day was 22 Dec 2007. I was pregnant for the first time, and I received a text from my sister saying: “Happy mother’s day!”  and then another one from my bff. Yes I got 2 wishes that day, not as many as I have wanted it to be, but it was great. After all I was only 3 months pregnant, therefore not many people knew I deserved mother’s day wishes. Although to be even more honest, I told my husband, early December that year, that Indonesian mother’s day falls on 22 Dec, and I had hoped for him to say happy mother’s day to me, but he didn’t. For 2 reasons: he forgot (typical men!), and he didn’t feel the need to say it.

But as time unraveled itself, I had a miscarriage just 1 week after my very first mother’s day. At late March 2008, we were in UK, and the mother’s day in UK was also late March, but I was not pregnant and I didn’t have any child either, therefore I didn’t deserve to receive mother’s day wishes. As sad as it was for me, I tried to still celebrate motherhood for those who were mothers.

So during that particular mother’s day in UK, we went out to do some shopping.  Every single time I saw or interacted with a woman with child(ren), I always said “Happy mother’s day!” with a big smile on my face. But the reactions I got from those women were not quite as I expected. They all looked at me as if I just asked them to give me a bag full of gold coins. Rather like a horror look or a “you are strange” look. I was bemused. “What is going on in this world…?”

I got pregnant again in June 2008, and so my 2nd mother’s day finally came. It was 22 Dec 2008. I was 8 months pregnant, we were living in Belgium. A week before the date, I told my husband that Indonesian mother’s day would come soon, to which he responded casually “Oh really?”. I waited for the day expectantly. But 22 Dec came and went without any single person wishing me happy mother’s day. This time, I confronted my husband “It was mother’s day yesterday! But you didn’t give me any wishes!”. With a confused look on his face he flatly said “But you are not my mother”. I gave him a horrified look. “What is going on in this world…?”

For Chirstmas that year, we drove from Belgium to UK, to celebrate it with Bryn (my in law) and Sam (my husband’s son from his prev marriage). Christmas morning I told Sam that it was mother’s day in Indonesia 3 days ago (hoping I would get some belated happy mother’s day wishes from him). Sam said… “Oh nice, did your baby get you a nice greeting card?”. Haha… I laughed to that. It was a joke, you see… my baby was still inside my belly! But still… “Am I missing something here…?”

Later on… in 2009… I learned that within the western custom one says “happy mother’s day” to one’s mother, in Indonesia we say “happy mother’s day” to all mothers. Major difference! Then I knew why those women looked at me funny when I said happy mother’s day to them. I am not their child! Then I realized why my husband never understood it when I gave hints to him that I wanted him to wish me happy mother’s day. He is not my child! And for the same reason, Sam made the joke about the baby who was still inside my tummy! Duuuuhhh…..!!!

The western people since a long time ago made it specific that the apostrophe (=tanda petik atas) in mother’s day should be before the S, and not after the S (as in mothers’), to signify that the day was dedicated for singular mother, your own mother, not for plural mothers which is all mothers in the world.

Still, I don’t quite understand this idea. Why only to your own mother? Is the quality of the sentiment reduced when you wish a happy mother’s day to not only your mother but also to all mothers in the world? Does it mean less for our mothers if we also celebrate other’s mothers? I don’t think so… Then I can conclude that the way Indonesians deal with mother’s day is better than those of the western societies.

Happy mother’s day to all Indonesian mothers…! And for mothers of the western world, you should wait to get it from your child(ren) on the appropriate date. 🙂

Lot’s of love.

Dian Retno Wulandari. A child to my mother, and a mother to my child.

PS: For the first time ever, my husband remembers that it’s Indonesian mother’s day today (without any cue from me). He and Alix even made a mother’s day card for me. Oh… bless them. He said if he’s not too busy with work or study, he would take me out to movie and dinner this evening. I hope we can watch Tangled (animation, Mandy Moore), but I know he wants to watch Unstoppable (Denzel Washington).

PPS: Most countries (like USA, Ghana, Japan, Belgium, Malaysia, Turkey, etc…) celebrate mother’s day on the 2nd Sunday of May. UK celebrates mother’s day on the 4th Sunday of Lent

My Disastrous Blogging Plan

I sometimes don’t understand the way people think… Like when I see a beggar reaching out to me with his dirty hands, showing his dirty teeth off to me through his pitiable smile, and at the same time he is smoking, and sitting next to a few empty beer bottles. How can he think that I will think that he deserves my pennies? I don’t understand the way he thinks. Another example is… I don’t understand it why some people like to gamble. Isn’t it so obvious that they are just throwing money down the drain? Well, people say it is actually the thrill that they are going for, not the money. Still I don’t understand it… how can it be thrilling to do something where you have to give up money for nothing? But it’s for the thrill…! But it’s for nothing…! A vicious circle… I totally don’t understand it…

messy dining table

A revelation came to me this weekend… After spending a whole night long of just thinking… (no intelligent thoughts mind you) I realize that I don’t even understand the way I think. Why do I think in a certain way? Why do I think that I shouldn’t change the pillow cases if I were not to change the whole bedding set? Why do I think that it is better to buy fresh vegetables and not use them and then throw them into the bin rather than freezing them in the first place?

I started this blog just over 2 weeks ago. At that time, I thought… I would post at least once every 4 days, and believe me… I think about it every day.  I have so much going on in my head that I knew I could do it, and yet… here we are… well over 14 days and not a single post is published since I started. See… this is also how I don’t understand myself.  Somewhere deep inside, I don’t feel like I deserve to be blogging. The whole notion of just sitting and writing what I have in my head is like a luxury. Like the kind of thing only Michelle Obama has the right to do… or Taylor Swift. 🙂

I kept saying to myself that I would claim this luxurious time (=write blog) when I am done with my duties and don’t have anything else to do. Anything at all…! Rather like having a long hot bubbly aromatic bath in the evening…  You deserve it only after you have done everything else needs doing in a day. So what is it needs doing in my simple life as a housewife and a stay-at-home-mother? To name a few: I need to clean up the mess on the dining table that has been sitting there for weeks, I need to brush the rug with dry foam, I need to be a good-well-informed-discussion-mate for the master degree my husband is taking, I need to scrub the toilets, I need to call the plumber, I need to organize my hand bags, I need to put the suitcases away, oh I don’t know… I lost track of what needs doing. What I do know is… writing a blog is last in the list. Oh I forgot to mention that I also need to look after my little son. That alone can feel like a space and time continuum. The whole feeding, bathing, playing, reading, napping, sleeping, toilet training, nappy changing, blah blah blah… I don’t even know when one ends and the next begins. Just this one duty (mothering) is time consuming, let alone the cooking, toilet scrubbing, reading, organizing, paying the bills… Oh how endless.

Look… I am not complaining here. Ok? I am just illustrating how I think where I don’t understand my own thinking. What makes things more and more chaotic is the vicious circle (=lingkaran setan) I get myself into. Example: “Oh I have a great thought about something! I should write it in my blog!” The thing is, I immediately think that I should not write my blog before I brush the rug with dry foam, or before I finish reading the modules from my husband’s master degree course, or before I clean the mess on the dining table… and since I cannot do it, or don’t want to do it, I decided to just watch Teletubbies on TV with my son.

To make it simple it is like this:

I want to blog. — But I should do things before I can blog. — But I don’t want to do those things. — So I watch TV instead.

How does that make sense? Well, it doesn’t. That is why I say I don’t understand the way I think.

The next question arises… What brought me here? Writing away for my blog? Have I finished all things need doing? No… my friends… Not at all… This is a result of a whole night worth of thinking… I have failed my husband in being a good class mate for him. See… he is taking a master degree in Technology Management, and it is an online course from a renowned university in England. But since it is online, and we are in Ghana, it is impossible for him to attend study groups or students meetings, so I offered myself to be a class mate, whom he can discuss things with, who knows what is going on in the course. To be a good class mate (even though I will not earn any qualification at the end of it) I should read everything he is reading in order for us to embark on a quality discussion regarding the course. But I haven’t been doing it well. In fact, I failed miserably.

I let my husband down… I know for sure he won’t say I have…, but I know better. My own vicious circle… my own brain… my own thinking… and yet I don’t understand it… In the end I get nothing done in my life. Since I don’t want to scrub the toilets, I don’t want to clean the dining table, I don’t want to brush the carpet, I might as well do what I want… instead of what I need.

And I… want to blog! Here it is… one thing done. I know this ain’t no Taj Mahal. 🙂 But am I allowed to feel a little proud of myself…? I finally break the vicious circle!

Yours Faithfully,

Dian Retno Wulandari. A confused young woman.

PS: I need to understand myself more.

PPS: I will clean the dining table right after I post this

Update:

tidy dining table