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.

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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??

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. 🙂

Ghana, First Impression…

By an Indonesian who thought she has seen it all.

It was right in the middle of a very hot summer in Belgium that we found ourselves frantically packing our apartment down to move to Ghana. The decision came suddenly, but all we needed to do was look forward to another adventure. That was exactly what we did, and got.

August 2009, smooth touchdown at Ghana International Airport. The hot climate of Ghana was easy to cope with since we came from a painful hot summer in Belgium 🙂 We had done some Googling research about Ghana but still we were feeling nervous apprehensive about it all. I tried hard to see the goodness of this new place. But I must say that the first impression was not impressive at all, well there’s no impression 🙂 . It is sad to say, but Ghana International Airport is the worst airport I have ever seen. Not only that we must ride on a tatty bus to get on and off the plane, the hassle of baggage claim and custom check seems to be endlessly chaotic very challenging.

But once we were in the car and on the road, my heart began to light up. I saw so many similarities between Ghana and Indonesia -my mother land 🙂 The banana trees by the road, the bougainvillea blossom everywhere, the street sellers, the shape of the houses, the big billboards everywhere and oh… the not so immaculate roads and streets. They even sell Indomie (= instant noodle) in Ghana! I was happy but not for long. The Indomie they sell in Africa tastes terrible different. 😀

It didn’t take me long to find out that Ghana is nothing like Indonesia. In fact they couldn’t have been more different from each other. 😦 The first time I asked my driver where I could go shopping, he informed me that he could take me to Accra Shopping Mall. 😀 He described it as something huge and beautiful, and he used his hands gestures by waving them around to illustrate how big it is, and his sense of pride was infecting me with excitement. 😀 Shopping Mall…!! I like that…!! Coming from Asia where the best shopping malls are reigning the world, I am into shopping mall baby…! 😀

I proudly stuffed my wallet with some USD 100, a whopping amount for a developing country’s standard. So off we went to this shopping mall. Woohoo…!! 😀 I was celebrating Ghana until my driver parked our car in a parking lot of something that looks like an old warehouse, I stayed quiet. Then he showed me into this building. Still confused, I wondered if he misunderstood me and took me somewhere else instead. After a while of finding our way inside this building, I asked my driver “Can we just go to the shopping mall?” He replied innocently, “Madam, this is the Accra shopping mall.”

* Gasp* I felt like my heart skipped a beat, my mouth went dry, and my back started sweating. I bowed my head down and looked at the floor. It was not shiny, nor reflective. I tilted my head back and looked at the ceiling… there was no void nor mezzanine. Oh My Gordon Brown…! It is not a 10 storey, nor a 5 storey, but a one story building…! I looked around and saw some few small shops. “Are you kidding me?” The whole setting looks more like a shopping arcade rather than a shopping mall.

Accra Shopping Mall

But it’s ok, I propped myself up and continued with my mission: my first ever grocery shopping in Ghana! It is all just a part of the big adventure, isn’t it? I looked around this medium sized supermarket (=Shoprite), clutching my wallet nervously, excited and scared at the same time, I decided not to worry. I had enough money or so I thought. In Indonesia, USD 100 can buy a month worth of groceries, and in Belgium that amount would provide about 2 weeks’ worth of groceries. So what is there to worry about? I started to fill my shopping cart with one thing after another. All the basic stuff we needed like detergent, coat hangers, towels, disinfectant, etc.

But that was not all my dear friends… The biggest surprise came to me when we were at the cashier, paying for all the stuff we thought we were buying. A whopping amount of over USD 300 for the most mundane stuff I had in my cart. I thought I was speechless when I was proposed by my husband, but this experience gave me a new meaning to speechlessness. 😀 I had no choice but to cancel most stuff I had wanted to buy. I was left with some detergent, fabric softener, coat hangers, clothes peg, shower gel, cup noodles, and baby cereal. That came down to just over USD 100. I shamelessly asked my driver to pay the “just over” bit of the USD 100.

plastic coat hangerGob-smacked, we drove back home and I didn’t say a thing. Being a developing country that is not any better than like Indonesia, I thought everything in Ghana would be good value. But I couldn’t be more wrong. Ghana is simply the most expensive country we have ever been to. Even more expensive than Belgium, more expensive than UK! (I wouldn’t even start comparing it with America) I paid one US dollar for one stupid plastic coat hanger. One dollar! For something that normally wouldn’t have cost me no more than 20 cent.

On our way back, my driver asked me if we have a shopping mall this big in Indonesia. I said: “with all due respect to all Ghanaians, that thing is not a shopping mall. In Indonesia, just the parking space for a shopping mall would be bigger than this entire thing”. “Yes, we do. It is nice”

When I thought I have seen it all, just a week later my maid pissed her pants in my car! Yes, she literally pissed herself whilst sitting in our clean and shiny Land Cruiser, and left the car smelling like an ugly public toilet. Curious? I’ll tell you about it later. 😀 Just keep reading…!

Cheers,

Dian Retno Wulandari. Going Ghanaian!

PS: To be fair to this country, I will also post about some good things in Ghana. It is, however, where our home is at the moment. 🙂