Another first year in Amsterdam: life with a baby

I wanted to pick a more milestone-ish date to post this entry – when Ayla turned three months. Or six months. Or even nine months, which felt pretty monumental to me (nine months in, nine months out!). But I’m writing this on her 10-month “birthday,” which is not marked by any huge milestone other than a lot of teething pain and some very dreary weather.

So I skipped writing about anything during these first few months past the birth story, but I composed a million posts in my head. And now it’s time to write again, but I have nothing clear in my mind. I just want to see what I remember.

I remember the first 10 days so clearly, because they were rather amazing. I had the best two kraamzorgen (maternity nurses) care for me for 8 days following the birth. For that first week, my house was spotless. The laundry was always done. There was always something to eat, I was encouraged to nap and rest and bond with my daughter as much as possible. I was given tips of breastfeeding when needed, but I was also one of the lucky ones: breastfeeding came rather easily and naturally (but it was still exhausting and all-encompassing). I remember the first walk to a nearby cafe, with Enrique wearing Ayla in a wrap. I remember how amazing my hair still looked then. I remember thinking “I just slept three hours, my god I feel amazing and ready to take on the world!” and genuinely meaning it.

I remember how intimidating and scary it was to really go out-out for the first time, when she was about three weeks old. I got Ayla in the stroller, took her on the bus to a friend’s house, fed her, hung out a bit, and came home. This journey exhausted me in ways I never experienced before. I was so insanely alert to everything. The traffic kind of terrified me. I felt terrible for not having a proper rain cover for the stroller because of course it rained. I didn’t know how to properly fold up the stroller so I just left the entire thing in the stairwell of my friend’s apartment. There seemed to be an endless amount of things I didn’t know how to do, but we got out and got back in and were all still alive in the end.

I remember how going out got easier. She napped so well when I wore her. I started finding the stroller really cumbersome pretty early on. I remember one day going out into the center of Amsterdam and going to H&M to buy her a dress – the first article of clothing that I picked out and bought myself – and then hanging around and getting coffee. It was so easy while she slept next to me in the ergo, and I didn’t have to deal with the public transportation rules for strollers or worry about stairs.

I very, very fondly remember weeks 10-18, when she started sleeping through the night. I also remember the first night she slept all night, because I sat awake from 4am onward watching her and checking to make sure she was breathing. During this time in her life, she was the easiest baby. We went out to dinner with her, we’d go to museums, to bars, to exhibits, and we’d all get a full night sleep. She was so cute, she started smiling, and when I put her down she’d stay in one spot. Life was amazing.

I remember hearing about the “four month regression” and man, I remember experiencing it. The waking-up in the night again, the 30-minute naps, the change from newborn to baby. Her nighttime sleep kind of resolved itself within a few weeks, but naps became A Thing. I started wearing her for pretty much every nap, and walking. I walked with her in the rain, cold, dark, everything. I felt grateful to A) have the time to do such a thing and B) that at least wearing her worked. This phase passed as well, but it took longer.

I remember our travels, and how different they became. We took her to Italy (twice), London, California, and Mexico. There were some hard moments in those travels but generally speaking I loved it. She was a great traveler, no major horror stories with the plane (cars on the other hand…) or even with jetlag.

I remember how much I loved seeing her with family from both sides, both when they came to visit Amsterdam and when we bought her to the US and Mexico. It gave me a glimpse into the world of people who raise their children in say, the same country as their family. Here in Amsterdam, Enrique and I don’t have a grandma, aunt, cousin, etc., to help out here and there. Having help/support – and seeing other people who loved Ayla on a very real level – was really eye-opening.

I remember when she started rolling in her crib, when she became a tummy sleeper, when she started crawling and standing and laughing and clapping and saying “Mama.” I remember having to lower the crib mattress and take away the mobile that hung over it, and feeling kind of sad about that. I remember the feeling of putting away her small-baby clothes as she grew more and more, and having no idea what to do with them.

I remember holding her in the night as she screamed in what I’m pretty sure was teething pain. I felt like I would cut off my arm right then and there if it meant she would be calm and happy again, but I’d hold her close and rock her and breastfeed and feel awful yet grounded. As long as she was in my arms, I could try to make her feel better and calm down. I als remember her screaming in her carseat in Italy, and actually crying myself, because I couldn’t pick her up and comfort her. I hated that, it is so far the only time in her entire life that she actually “cried herself to sleep,” and it was absolutely awful to witness. It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses – there are very memorable moments that tear on my heartstrings in a painful way as well.

I remember buying my new bike – my mamafiets, or mama bike. A big, sturdy, beast of a bike with a baby seat up front. I was so ready to stop taking trams and walking everywhere – honestly, without a bike I find Amsterdam such an annoying city to move around. I hate the trams and that suddenly it would take me 45 minutes to get to places that would take 20 minutes on a bike. We started doing short rides around 8 1/2 months, and by 9 months she was a pro.

And I remember the first time she fell asleep on the bike, and how we had become one of those typical Amsterdam sights. Maybe a tourist saw us and marveled (the way I used to when I was a tourist here), but what no one around me knew was how I was squealing on the inside, that I had become a mom with a sleeping baby on the bike.

These days I have a very active little girl, and there are non-stop changes and new firsts every day. She crawls, eats solid food, contorts herself into the oddest positions while she’s breastfeeding, stands on her own, says “Mama,” has upped her decibel level of screaming, and is a true pain in the ass to get dressed about 90% of the time. I wear her on my back more often than on my front. I take her everywhere by bike, as long as it’s not pouring rain. And today, on her 10-month-brithday, it is in fact pouring rain. Well, on and off, but it’s been between a drizzle and a pour all day long. We left the house with the plastic cover over the stroller, long sleeves and pants, and headed to a “baby cafe” not far away. She had a blast while we were there – getting out of the house was essential to survival (for me) on a day like this. I’m really grateful these baby-friendly cafes exist and I have spot to meet other moms and dads and watch Ayla play with different toys and different babies without having to pay anything (well, of course I had a coffee, but that was it).

But the fact that I dressed my baby in socks, pants, onsie, shirt, and jacket – and I made sure to bring the umbrella, plastic rain cover, and all the other normal stuff you should carry around in say, October – this is one of the many, many reasons that we are planning to leave this country. The forecast is the same all week. This is just how it is here. It’s actually kinda perfect if you have a newborn, or an under 6-month-old who doesn’t move around that much – rainy, cozy days inside with a small baby are pretty delicious.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that soon, if I don’t let another 9 months go by before I post again. Getting back to things-I-do-just-to-make-myself-happy is critical, and writing is one of those things that is on that list.

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