About Susi

I am the other half of Hilkka. As many of you already know, I am an African living in Helsinki. There is not too much to say, except that we have been trying for a long time to get pregnant and we are now telling our story on a blog here.

Should childless people wanting children get treatment?

Am I running myself down or is it really true? I find it odd that some people seem to just have it all. Good looks. Good genes. Money. Popularity. Friends. Business. Kids. And they got the kids just as easily as they got everything else. It all just miraculously seems to fall into their laps. There is no justice in the world.

For us those issues above did not come easily. Shortly after we were married we went off the pill with the intention of having a child. We understood that going off the pill and almost instantly falling pregnant was impossible. We bided our time and patiently waited for Hilkka to finally start growing a bigger belly.

Months passed and yet nothing happened. I already have two children from a previous marriage, so I was certain it would happen sooner than later. Sadly though, nothing did happen. Hilkka became impatient and for good reason too.

We eventually started taking supplements to aid both our reproductive systems. We went to the clinic for consultations. We were given more treatment. We were thoroughly educated about the ups and downs, the ifs and whats and the whens and whys. We were quite impressed and even though we were warned that there is no guarantee for success, we were optimistic and confident.

The first treatments showed promise of success but unfortunately ended in failure. Our hopes rose with every new treatment and the awfully long waiting period was unbearable. The unexpected failures hit us hard. This affected our relationship and put a strain on almost everything we did.

I did not know that trying to have a baby is this tough. But we persevered, we ground down and in the end we did finally succeed. It felt like an eternity.

Are you in the same situation? Should you go for the treatment? I say “Of course!”

I would like to use this opportunity to encourage anybody out there not to give up. If you have decided that you want a child and you need to receive treatment to make this a reality, I say do it. Not every couple is successful, but you should start sooner, rather than later. It is worth it in the end.

And of course, Hilkka and I from the bottom of our hearts wish you all the best too.

New dawn

Planning to have children has been an enormous burden on our relationship. I wonder how many other people experience the ups, the downs, the stress, the anguish and all the other intense emotions we have gone through. It really is not easy to explain what drama has befallen us on this journey.

To start off with, this whole family planning almost cost us our relationship. We tried the natural way back in Africa with no success. I, already having two children from a previous marriage, was not quite on the same the wavelength as Hilkka. I did not feel the intense NEED she did to have children.

During this starting phase, the talk of adoption came up. Having two children myself, I could not see myself adopting a child and raising “someone else’s”. I am convinced that I could never show or distribute the love a child needs if the child was not entirely mine. Please do not misconstrue this as me being against adoption. It is just that I have children and believe it would be horribly unfair of me to selfishly adopt and then not be able to love as the child deserves to be and should be loved.

The only other option was artificial insemination. I still did not understand Hilkka’s urge or hurry. I thought we could take our time and fall pregnant and have the baby and… – but Hilkka was nearing the age where it was important to fall pregnant soonest. I was too blind to her needs and desires. At one point during a heated argument I did realise how badly she wanted a child and that it had to be NOW.

At that point I also realised that I might not be the man to provide her with a child. I wasn’t the youngest anymore. According to tests my seed was not what it used to be, not quite fit enough. I was against us adopting a child. Taking all this into consideration I was about to separate and have us divorce. I thought at that time that I had to let her go to allow her the opportunity to find the right man before it was too late. Fortunately we did not separate. Hilkka wouldn’t allow it. In pure Hilkka fashion she ”put her foot down”.

Next we moved to Finland and we went through the fertility treatment and the insemination here. This programme exposed us to a flurry of mixed experiences. The anxiety, the anticipation, the joy and then the sudden horror of failure. It was an absolute roller-coaster of emotions, hormones, love, tears and madness. Success closely followed by failure. Exuberance shattered by despair.Luckily Hilkka’s determination held strong and we finally did manage to conceive and carry the baby to term.

It is with pride and elation I can now announce that I am the awfully proud and happy father of a tiny bundle of joy. The next era of worrying is about to start with new concerns and challenges.

Hilkka – thank you for persisting, thank you for your gift! Mina rakastan sinua! Mina rakastan our Lil’ My! And while we are on the subject of love – going through the delivery and finally holding the adorable bundle also made me realise how much I miss and love my boys back home. I so wish we could have experienced this together.

PS: We were really close to naming her My, but we chose another name just as beautiful and fitting; right from the beginning My showed that she is a tough little cookie, not quite a Lily. However, Hilkka and I think it wise not use real names on here (we’re sure you’ll understand).

One comes, one goes

Life as we understand it is a magical experience filled with emotions and feelings and life consists of an eternal learning process.  Life is a long journey of ups and downs, sunrises to sunsets and we all hope to be able to lead a long and successful life. The long and the success is measured and interpreted by different people differently and what one might perceive as success could be considered by another in a vastly opposite or different light.

I started my blog today this way because unfortunately I have a family member that currently is ill and the prognosis is not good. So, while one the one hand we are expecting a baby and eagerly await the arrival, our joy is overshadowed with the knowledge that my stepfather is not long of this world anymore.

I must admit that all is not as terrible as it at first might seem. Stepdad is almost 82 years old and certainly has led a long, hard and fruitful life. As a farmer he spent most of his life on the land in the harsh sun with his sheep, cattle and game. He had grown up in what some might term a somewhat poor household. Thus, from an early age he knew the importance of hard work and never shied from it either.

His labour, dedication, determination and his uncanny skill at understanding business in his region soon saw him and his farming endeavours flourish. When he could afford to, he bought livestock when the price was low, tended them and the land until the price was right for him and then sold these animals again at a healthy profit. Of course it did not pan out favourably every time, but he was persistent, patient and soon his wealth started to show and grow. From small and humble beginnings grew a little pool of wealth.

Stepdad wouldn’t let it lie here either. If anything, his success fuelled an even bigger hunger. Call it ego, call it industrialism, call it what you like, but it certainly never was greed. He simply was a hard worker, a shrewd businessman and he continued in much the same manner as when he had started. He shifted his focus slightly from farming to property and became an astute property owner as well as small-scale property developer. All this whilst still maintaining full control over the farming side of the businesses.

Stepdad was hard-working as well as generous. He was by no means a philanthropist, but he was no miser either. I think his most endearing feature probably was that for all the wealth he had, he had both feet firmly grounded and his head square on his shoulders. He fathered five children and has numerous grandchildren too. I guess you could say that Stepdad had done very well for himself. He was always willing to listen, willing to lend a helping hand or offer advice and guidance. I most appreciate that he never was forceful or demanding. His method was more one of suggestion and offering the listener the chance to take the advice or leave it.

So whilst Stepdad is withering away in a hospital 15 000km from here, we are hoping to receive a new bundle of joy in our lives any moment. One new life is about to begin and on the other side of the world in the same family another life seems to be coming to an end.

I would like to thank my stepfather for all he has done for me and my mother. Before he walks out into his African bushveld for the last time, I want him to know that he is a very special man. I will miss him. He has been an inspiration, a pillar of support and a strong guide and influence for the last 15 years. Thank you very much and I wish you all the best and strength for the next part of the journey and the adventures to come.

Ready?

It would appear as though just about everything is ready for the new arrival. We have received the large cardboard box from Kela. We have been to classes to prepare us for the actual event. We and now we have also been to the hospital to see what goes on there. What else is missing, I wonder?

We now have clothing for the baby. We have a mattress and bedding too. We do not have a perambulator or stroller yet. We must get a car seat too. And let’s not forget about the nappies – oh my – dem nappies! I understand though that the pram and car seat are available on loan from friends and family. But will anyone loan us nappies? Ha – just remembered – we don’t have a carry cot either. Still some work to do there then.

Last week we attended a yoga class in which the entire process was explained to us. What a really great evening that was. The presenter was very good too. She explained how over the decades the process has changed and how we only now are starting to properly understand more complex issues such as the trauma the poor child must be experiencing. I must admit, that is something I never considered. To me it was all just part of this natural process. But now that I have been taught this, I understand and realise that this occurrence must be highly traumatic for the new-born.  Another new revelation was the water breaking. I always thought that the moment the water broke the real action starts. At least that is what happened when my two sons were born. Now I learnt that the mother could actually still carry the child for several hours after that and not expose the baby to any danger. So thank you very much for your most insightful and enlightening presentation.

After the educational part was done we were presented with an array of tools and methods to help ease the pain of the mother while going into labour and while giving birth. I suppose these lessons are after all quite important for expecting parents to attend. The tools that are applied are also quite novel. I did not realise that a simple exercise ball would be so helpful (now that I have been shown it appears almost logical, but that’s just it with me – if you don’t show me I don’t learn). And that wooden curved chair. It looks like a potty with the sides missing. Wish I had thought up some of these.

Yesterday we attended a gathering at the local hospital. Now we know where to go, when to go, but not quite how to go. Taxi? Car? Reckon bus is a possibility too, but not quite what we’ll use. Here in Finland you have so many more choices. Would you like a single room? Would you like a family room? Would you like a bath with that? What medicines would you prefer? Back home it is a case of arrive at the hospital. Get admitted. Be wheeled into the semi-sterile theatre. Pray the mid-wife has at least a vague idea of what to do. Have the baby. Get wheeled off to the ward where several other expecting mothers and mothers who have just very recently given birth are congregated in an overfilled ward with way too many beds. People milling everywhere. Screaming kids running around. No peace anywhere. Of course there are the private hospitals where you have a little more peace and quiet, but even they cannot guarantee you a single room, even though you paid through your ears for their facilities and will be indebted the rest of your poor life.

Thankfully we are currently going through relatively stress-free experience. Yet during these preparatory stages, people burst my bubble. It is pretty normal when strangers gather for people in similar situations to open up to each other and start up impromptu conversations. Yes, that can happen in Finland too! That is most likely to happen if I am around. I can’t help myself, I am too talkative. And of course the subject of the sex of the baby will most certainly be one of the topics. What about the sex of the baby? Standing amongst these other pregnant couples, people were quite convinced that our baby will be a boy. They can tell this by looking at the shape of the mother’s belly. Really??? I just see a big lump that occasionally moves and makes me feel all giddy. Wait a minute – Does that mean I have to re-paint the room? Do we now have to toss out all the cute little clothes we’ve bought and collected? The toys? Oh brother!

This world

I can’t help but wonder if we are being selfish or not. We are bringing a child into this world and what a terrible world it has become. Oh, I know, our parents probably thought the same – or it probably was just as bad back then – but I remember growing up in a world that was safer and freer and healthier. Or am I just being way too paranoid?

My mother and my grandmother knew that I was a busy and adventurous boy. They also understood that boys need to run and jump and bicycle and explore and do what boys do (after all, my one uncle was called Tarzan for very good reasons). I had relatively few limitations. Obviously the ethical and legal ones, but more importantly I was told to be home by sunset. In Africa we worked (and I guess my system still does) that work, or play for that matter, started when the sun came up and ended when the sun went down. This then also determined when we ate (ha ha ha – I get really hungry during the summertime in Finland when sunset is so far away).

Anyway, I’d be out and about in the bushes and on the streets and I often got home after sunset. My mother and gran worried of course and I was reprimanded constantly. This is something we in today’s age just cannot allow our children to do any more – it just is not safe to do that now.

As a kid my biggest worries were snakes, honey badgers and thorns. Now we have thieves, rapists, psychos, sickos, weirdoes and a list of other threats. As a kid the nights were probably the more dangerous times. Today you are likely to be attacked at any moment.

But I guess that all will work out in the end anyway. Doesn’t it always? I am just getting older. I am most likely going on just like parents did when I was born. I hope I am just overreacting.

I am very happy that we are having our child in Finland though. The social system here seems to be better thought out and more operative too. The people certainly are more accommodating and supportive. I am confident our child will have a very good start in life here and I sincerely hope that as a species we very soon learn to live in peace and harmony.

The heat, oh the heat

Well, as most you by now already know, we are back in the land of a thousand lakes. And what a time to arrive back here! It is gorgeous sunny weather, people are out and about and a noticeable change has occurred in the normally dour demeanour of most Finns. The nation definitely is far happier than usual.

All this good news about the weather is bad news for us though. The block of flats we live in are being renovated. Our balcony door has quite literarily been nailed shut! We have no means of getting fresh air to circulate through our little boiling pot. And it is truly boiling hot in here. Stuffy. Unbearable.

Hilkka is battling with the heat and the pregnancy. I have no idea of how she must be feeling, but I can see the frustration and anguish. To make matters worse she developed a case of the ‘flu too.

This turn of events is a little blessing. Now Hilkka has the chance to officially get time off. Now she can get away to the folks’ home and get some pampering and cooling away from this swelteringly hot apartment.

All this is not that good for me though. I have been here now for a few days and miss them. The heat is still unbearable, but I’ll manage – for now at least. Last night’s rain has not helped the situation either. I had hoped it would cool the temperature down a few degrees, but all that has happened is that the humidity has increased which in turn makes it feel even hotter in this heat trap.

Time to get out the bicycle, me thinks.

Bonding

I got to wondering during our last adventure in New York. When does what happen? When do we become humans? When do we start to remember? When do we start to feel, hear and think? So many more I cannot come up with them just off the hip. But I have been trying to make contact and that is where all these questions, insecurities and emotions stem from.

Hilkka has been suffering lately with the New York heat. She has been subjected to a strange city, strange environment, strange people, high heat and humidity and the added stress of participating in an educational project all whilst pretty pregnant. I on the other hand have had the enviable luxury of strolling around, exploring, gallivanting and having a pretty good time in a new world.

In the evenings I can clearly see the strain Hilkka is going through. In an attempt to soothe her aches and fatigue I have started kissing her belly while talking to the baby – all this as a result of Hilkka telling me that the baby can now distinguish that this is not her mother’s voice.

The baby has no idea what I am saying. It does not understand vocabulary (much less English or any other language for that matter). I assume it hears my voice? Through all that fluid? And thus many more questions spring to mind.

I cannot help but imagine the sweet little one floating in the safety of mommy’s wet and warm womb and I try to imagine what thoughts she is having. She does not speak a language yet. Does she have her own? Does she talk to herself? Does she have any opinions? What emotions is she experiencing? Are there different emotions for interaction with Mommy and with me? What type of personality does she have? Does she have any character traits already? Will she be demure, rambunctious, studious or active?

I guess many of these would seem totally stupid to many others out there. I just keep experiencing wondrous feelings of joy when I interact with her like this. And that is where all these weird questions and unknown emotions originate. And I cannot help but wonder if it makes any difference knowing that she is a girl.

Knowing it is a girl has me behaving completely differently – I think. If I did not know what sex the baby was I might behave in a similar manner – coy, cautious, quiet. I am pretty sure that if it was a boy I would be more talkative, more animated. Is that stereotyping? Is that presumptuous? Thankfully it is a girl and my animation will not add to Hilkka’s stress.

The Big Apple

As most of you by now most probably already know, we are currently in New York. What an experience, so far! Wow. I never was particularly interested in visiting the US, but had the attitude that given the chance, I would go. And now, here I am in New York.

Before leaving, our biggest concern was Lily’s well-being and Hilkka being ’fit enough’ to travel. Luckily for us all the doctor found everything to be in order. As a matter of fact, we are quite ecstatic that the pregnancy has gone so well, so smoothly and so beautifully.

The flight over here was eight hours long. Eight hours of being wedged in-between a pregnant woman and a very quiet American. The seats were not uncomfortable, but I tried my best to give Hilkka as much space as I could and at the same time had to make sure I didn’t encroach on the other guy. At least I was mildly amused by the cabin crew’s apparent disorientation and unpreparedness. I had enough time to almost finish my book too.

The stewardesses were forever running up and own the aisles, pushing those cumbersome trolleys and leaning over to assist and serve passengers. They were very good at that. What amused me though was that they never seemed to have enough of anything on their trolley. This resulted in an endless race by one of the poor ladies between the galley and the trolley. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a constant flow. And for some or other odd coincidence, every time they came to fill up our water cups, they would run out after having filled Hilkka’s.

We landed at JFK early in the afternoon in temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. The walk from the plane to the passport control point was very long. Once in the queue we moved quickly, though. The staff here were efficient, but cold, distant. They worked more like robots than people, but I suppose that is inevitable working in this environment where tempers often fray and immigration officials are tested and despised more than what most people can handle.

Our customs official was a young fella with an attitude. We tried to behave friendly, he was blunt. And he was incessantly chewing on a wad of gum with his mouth open. ANNOYING! Fingerprints were taken,  then photos and eventually the passports stamped. Throughout this entire process he never smiled or assisted us in any way. Just chewing that irritating gum,  talking to us in a bored monotone, making very little eye contact and not smiling. What a cold and unsettling welcome to the country. Truth be told though, I was expecting more hassle than we got.

After Gummyboy it was off to collect the bags. These in tow, we eased through customs, through the arrival hall and out onto the streets of New York. Finally, we had arrived. We had arrived in a hot, stuffy, stinking mass of chaos, noise and bustle. Stress and anxiety almost immediately kicked in as a result of the frenetic pace at which everything around us suddenly moved, screamed, whistled, chattered.

We again queued, this time for a taxi (I later discovered how much queues form a part of everyday life here). After about 20 minutes in that hot and stinking line we got a taxi and were off to Manhattan. At last a little respite in an air-conditioned high-speed New York yellow taxi.

Well, now the three of us are in the USA (even if it is only NYC). I believe it will be an interesting next 3 weeks.

… and time stands still

We all know that time does not stand still. Quite honestly, I often think time has a mind of its own and really cannot decide what it wants to do or what it expects from us. Father Time has a wicked sense of humour. He and his adorable wife, Mother Nature, make such a lovely scheming couple, don’t they?

The one moment we are having fun and enjoying ourselves and suddenly we have run out of time. We look back and throw around clichés like “where did the time go” and lament about what could have been or what else should have been done and so forth.

Then next we experience something terrible or unpleasant and Father Time just does not want to get a move on. This also applies when we anxiously are awaiting an event or person.

And then there are moments that are neither. Waiting for the baby is one of those moments where time goes by too quickly and at the same time does not pass quickly enough. Know what I mean? A unique contradiction.

I am now trapped in that moment where time does not seem to move but simultaneously is moving too quickly. My studies seemed to moving on rapidly but now have come to a grinding halt because of the summer break. I could almost taste my graduation and now suddenly it all seems too far away in the distant future. Our plans to go on a lengthy trip are taking shape but the moment for departure just seems to be beyond reach. The baby’s approach is too fast because of our travel plans, but the excitement of the baby’s arrival is burning a hole in my gut and I can’t wait for that moment when she makes her appearance and announces her arrival for the whole ward and world to hear.

I’m stuck in time and torn between time and non-time (I’m obviously waffling on too much!).

But is that not just how life has always worked and how it will continue to go on? We start at a point. We see the way forward, plan and anticipate. We go through the motions of excitement, disappointment and most of the time most of us learn from this. Life is such a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions. And the cycle is repeated over and over and over again throughout our lives.

I reckon that I must be on another one of those bumpy sections of the ride. It is by no means the unpleasant bumpy part. Just the one filled with uncertainties, surprises, hopes, fears, pleasantries and all in a fair mix so that there isn’t any particular event that is larger than the others. Just enough of each to have a fairly even balance. I really am waffling.

So to end this baffling barrage of waffle:

… and through all this Father Time is just wasting time…

Unchartered territory

As I explained in my previous blog, I have finally gotten to tell me teenage sons that there is a baby on the way. I would have preferred to have spoken to both at the same time, but Chunky is not a morning person and I know it is absolutely impossible to get him out of bed early during weekdays. It should go without saying that in the weekends it is just about impossible.

I am disappointed though that he did not write to me of his own accord. It is probably expecting a little too much. Therefore I could not resist texting him this week and asking him how they felt. As infuriating as he (and of course, his brother too) can be, they have the gift of being downright honest, forward and simplistic in a very innocent way. In other words, what I’m trying to say, is that you never can tell how Chunky will act, react or what they will or will not say.

His reply was, as always, delayed, very short and quite blunt. He Claims to be ”Okay” with the news. He is ”happy” for us. As for his true feelings, it did not give me an inkling. Then I thought I’d get him a little excited (if that is possible with this child) and prompt him to say which sex they would prefer.

They sent back a sweet response I feel I have to share with you. Here it is as they said it:

”More a sis because it’s a mystery. But another bro would not be bad, but a sis … let the adventure to uncharted lands begin… ”

Just too adorable! When you least expect it, your kids come along and move you in ways you did not know they could. I LOVE my kids to bits! And there’s an ”uncharted” one coming too. Heavens, what awaits us?