To all the Queens…

It is maternal health awareness week this week. And in two days, it is mother’s day; a day that is difficult for many. I’ve been there. So this is for all my queens and warriors that are struggling. For the queens that are yearning to be a mom, for those that have lost their children, for those that have lost their mothers, for those struggling with their mental health, for anyone struggling in any kind of way. Whatever mountain you are climbing: You are NOT alone.

Quote credit to the lyrics from Ava Max’ song Kings & Queens, changed slightly by me.

“Will you have another one?”

It is one year ago today I found out I was expecting again. I had just put Finn to bed but ran back into his bedroom, scooped him up and told him he was going to be a big brother. He was 13 months old at the time. It is one year later, and that sibling did not come. A missed miscarriage; my third one.


The silver lining of it being my third was, that I got “some” testing done. Not all,  because I did have a living child inbetween. That I had a high risk pregnancy and premature labor with him, didn’t matter. A polyp was found, “we can’t tell you that’s the cause, but given your history we recommend it gets removed”. A routine surgery, and I ended up with a punctured uterus. They never got to remove the polyp.


And so I was referred to a top notch hospital, but that meant a long wait. 6 months and a lot of tears later, I finally got a tentative date, something to hold onto. One week later; Covid-19. All surgeries cancelled.


“Will you have another one?” I don’t know. A pregnancy doesn’t equal a baby for me. And I’m mad that I got robbed of that.


“At least you have one already”. I’m EXTREMELY thankful and grateful for him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t long for another one.


One year ago I told my son he was going to be a big brother. And all I want is for that to come true. 

Proprioception

Have you heard of this before? It is body awareness, knowing where your body parts are without having to look at them and knowing how much force to use. Without it, kids might hurt someone during tag because they push too hard, bump into people or have trouble bringing their spoon to their mouth without looking at it. They even might have difficulties staying in their seat at school.

The main issue nowadays? Screens. Kids don’t practice proprioceptive skills while staring at a screen. And with Canadian winters being so harsh, I need to be creative with Finns play indoors. This is one of the reasons I got him a balance board from Kimboo (Canadians only, for US readers see the Kinderfeets). He goes upside down, climbs and slides, he practices walking on an in- and decline, he wobbles on it and it helps with developing his balance.

Did you know that the most important time to develop a child’s proprioception is before they are six years old?

Some other activities to help are:
• Climbing stairs
• Crawling in boxes and through tunnels
• Catching/throwing
• Swimming
• Play doh
• Building forts

I love the indoor opportunities for climbing so I’m looking at getting him a pickler triangle for his second birthday to help develop this more!

For some more ideas on toys for your toddler, check out my blog post on the Top 5 Montessori inspired toys!

This is real motherhood — a toddlers sleepless night

This is real motherhood. I know I’ve been posting “picture perfect” family photos lately on Instagram. But this is real, this is raw.

This was two nights ago. Milk, snot and tears (both of ours) stains on my pj’s. I had fallen asleep after 12 trying to keep up with chores, and then Finn woke up at 12.50 am in a terror. Tim works 24 hours and wasn’t here to help. Nothing worked, rocking him in his chair, looking out the window at cars, taking him in bed with me. He did quiet down at the latter but kept rolling and rolling and climbing on me and we both couldn’t sleep. This went on for a while.

Then, I attempted to put him back in his own room because that’s where he sleeps best: he screamed like he was having a panick attack. I went back; my mommy heart can’t take that. It was 4.30 am now. I cried out to him almost in tears; “Mommy needs sleep too baby, Finnie needs sleep, we both need sleep.” He instantly stopped and reached his tiny arms out to me. I picked him up, he’s never hugged me that tight. And there they were, the tears. Mine this time.

Okay, back to our bed it is. Promise you will go to sleep then baby? *Nods* We get back into our room, he instantly points at the tv. “No baby, it’s not time for tv it’s sleepy time.” More cries. At this point I’ve had 40 minutes of sleep and it’s 5 am. I have no help. “Baby you want boobie?” He nods, and then crawls all over me for 20 minutes going back and forth, as a 21 month old nursing toddler does. I lay there, his soother in my mouth so he can’t throw it and I’ll have to turn the light on and go searching. I’m barely hanging on, but I take a picture, Because I know: one day I might miss these nights.

And then, he takes the soother and rolls over and falls asleep. I pull him close to me and sniff his hair. My miracle baby. You’re only this little once, I think. And then, I fall into a deep sleep holding my whole world.

Please stop telling little boys they need to “toughen up”

The last family gathering we had, some of the male adult figures in my son’s life kept saying they needed to “toughen him up”. And here’s the kicker.. he’s not even TWO yet. As his mom, I cringed. I guess I didn’t think as deeply about it in the moment, I laughed it off while taking my son out of their arms as he had his little arms stretched out to me and whined for me to take him. I remember saying: “his body, his choice” – he did not want to be picked up by them at that time. Ultimately, he was just trying to tell them he didn’t like what they were doing − just like I taught him, just like I want him to always be in control of his own body and feel like his opinion is important, his feelings matter. With no words of his own, he sure knew how to make clear that he wanted them to stop. Just like I want him to.

When everyone had left it started to bother me; he doesn’t need to “toughen up”, he definitely doesn’t need to accept things he doesn’t like just because the adults in the room think otherwise. And then I could not help but wonder.. would they say the same thing if he was a girl? Would they have told her to toughen up? I could tell you what I think the answer would be; it’s probably not.

Do one year old boys grow up hearing they are sensitive and need to toughen up? I guess they do, and it makes me scared for my son. For the ones that didn’t know already, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.. being sensitive is NOT a negative thing. I am the first to admit my son is sensitive, but opposed to other adult figures in his life, I’m on the sidelines cheering it on. I’m proud that my child is sensitive and not afraid to show his emotions and stand up for himself, this does NOT make him “weak”. Plus, with his sensitivity also comes his empathy. Even at one years old, he has shown great sensitivity to other peoples feelings, and tends to respond exactly how they need him to.

A few weeks back, my friend came and babysat him, just an hour earlier, she had gotten the news that a close family member passed away unexpectedly. She didn’t tell me; she knew I would have told her not to come. And Finn did exactly what she needed, he laughed, he played, he danced… And when she got sad, he crawled up in her lap and snuggled her, leaning his head on her shoulder. He allowed her to feel, and he knew she needed a hug.

All he asks in return is that others are sensitive to his feelings too, and maybe (who am I kidding, not maybe) this is part of a bigger picture. Especially men struggle to show their emotions and suffer in silence, a quick google search will show you lots of scientific evidence that when it comes to suicide, more males take their own lives than females. And this is no coincidence, men tend to suffer in silence where women tend to seek out help and talk about their feelings. This article even points out: “We condition boys from a very young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is to be ‘weak.” And not only men are ‘guilty’ of raising little boys this way. As a mother I was surprised to read the following statement from this same article: “mothers talk way more to their girl children than their boy children… and they share and identify feelings more.”

This is a real problem in society, I guess I’ve never been exposed to it as much – I grew up with sisters only. But now that I have a son, I see it first hand, and I cannot keep quiet. So never mind me going all Mama bear on you when you tell my son he’s sensitive or needs to toughen up. If society could only tell more little boys how great it is to be ‘sensitive’, how their feelings are important and how we will always be there to listen. Maybe then, less of those little boys will turn out to be men who suffer alone and in silence.

Top 5 montessori inspired toys to buy for your toddler

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. This means if you decide to make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

I know my previous posts have been more about my pregnancy loss journey, but I also would love to share more things about my life and the things I love. This week I’ve been browsing like crazy to find some good quality toys to invest in this year. I hate the idea of buying “cheap” plastic toys that don’t get played with very long or break easily. Instead, I’ve decided to spend a bit more money on toys that will last longer, and now I’m sharing them with you!

As a (phys ed) teacher, and a child development specialist, I am not only looking for toys that improve fine and gross motor skills, but also toys that have more than one function, allowing my child to let his imagination run wild. I just ordered this number one item yesterday and I am SO excited for it.

1. Balance board – #1 CHOICE

No, it is not cheap.. but YES it is a good investment. This can be used for years and years and even be enjoyed by Mama (think; yoga on a balance board!).

What is it.. A slide? A rocker? A bridge? A ramp for cars? It is all of the above and them some. From 18 months – teenage years, this board will be loved by all and for years to come. I must admit, Tim looked at me funny when I showed it to him and said I wanted to buy it, he was NOT for it. But when I explained all the uses and read a bunch of (extremely positive!) reviews, he was on board. I cannot wait to see Finn play with this. I originally looked into a Wobbel board, they are a Dutch company and I am familiar with them, but here in Canada they are a tad more expensive. I decided to go local with the Canadian made Kimboo board. And for my US followers, the Kinderfeets board seems to be a good choice also!

2. The Wishbone mini flip

US customers can find it here. In Canada it can be found at Ella + Elliot.
And for my Dutchies: HERE

This thing is THE BEST. I bought it for Finn’s birthday and it is a MAJOR hit in this house, from the start. It grows with him and you can flip the bottom over so it becomes a rocker! When he was learning to walk he used it as a walker, seriously.. you can NOT go wrong with this one, and you can totally customize the colors too!

3. Rainbow Stacker

find it on Amazon in Canada and the USA
and on bol.com in the Netherlands

I could not leave this one out of the list.. cause it’s a Rainbow! And nope that’s not the only reason why I listed it here. This thing inspires creativity, and not to mention, it looks cute as decoration in the nursery too!

There are different rainbow stackers to choose from, though Grimm’s seems to have the best reviews for quality and they make them in 4 (!!!) different sizes.

4. Balance Bike

When I visited my parents in the Netherlands I saw there were so many cool quality products, and this was one of them. It is the same brand as the Mini Flip and I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the wishbone products so I had to add this, I mean.. COME ON. Look how cool this bike is!

Find it on amazon in Canada here, in the US here
and a different (but similar idea) balance bike for my Dutchies here.

I won’t be buying it for Finn this Christmas (This Santa needs to budget after all.. ) But I seriously will be considering buying it for his birthday in March. It will be awesome for rides to the park!

5. Puzzles

And last but not least.. Puzzles. Because.. How can you go wrong with good quality and educational wooden puzzles?

Sold on amazon in Canada and the USA
Similar puzzle in the Netherlands

I hope I’ve inspired you to invest in one amazing toy this year, I will for sure be sharing my experiences with the ones I end up buying. For now, happy (online) shopping!

Why everyone should be listening to The Happiness Lab by Laurie Santos and how it has changed my life

Life is too short to be anything but happy.

“Put your phone down, you’re affecting my happiness!”, Tim and I jokingly tell each other whenever we watch tv together. Science backs it up though; there is an actual science behind being happy, and I’ve learned so much through listening to The Happiness Lab, a podcast by Yale professor Laurie Santos. Even though Tim and I are “joking” when we say this, it actually works. Knowing that having my phone out doesn’t just impact my enjoyment of whatever we are doing but also his, makes me put the phone down. And when he puts his away, I feel it too, it really does make the moment more enjoyable. What has the Happiness Lab taught me? That we can learn to be happier, we can work to be happier.

I am so excited about this podcast, I’ve mentioned it to family, friends and co-workers. And now I will share a few of the things I learned through listening with you, and how it has changed my life (and happiness level) already. Knowing how my mind works is really useful when going about daily activities. Because I know now, that my mind is tricking me when it comes to what makes me happy. Eat that entire bag of chips, watch that Netflix show, lay in bed a little longer instead of going out for a walk/run. My mind tells me those are the things I want to do, and that they will make me happy. And maybe they do in the moment, but not in the long run. I am the first to admit that I can be lazy, I’d rather sit on the couch and drink my coffee not doing anything for a while opposed to rushing and getting ready to head out the door. But does that really make me happier? No, it does not. Even though I hate the rushing part, I love getting out, interacting with people, taking my son to play places or the park, going out for breakfast. Those are the things that really make me happy. I know this now. And the science backs it up.

If you want something to change, you have to change it. Laurie explains most of us are waiting and hoping our circumstances will change, convinced that when this happens… we will be happier. Maybe when we get a new job, or a new house, then my life will be in place. Once again, our minds are lying to us, we can work on being happy right now. It is entirely possible, even if you have the disposition to be on the more unhappy side, you just have to work harder at it than some others.

I won’t give away too much, as I want you to go ahead and listen to The Happiness Lab and be as impressed as me. I learned some things I already knew, but being reminded about them and having it put in another perspective, makes me work harder at changing the things in my life that are affecting my happiness level. What do I mean? Well, in one episode Laurie talks about how our mobile phones affect our own experiences, but also those of others around us. Research has shown that scrolling on my phone while watching a movie with my husband doesn’t just affect my own happiness, but also his. Having my phone out while playing with my kid, affects his experience of the moment and makes him enjoy it less. We are dispositioned to want to share in experiences, and having someone be “half there” doesn’t feel quite the same. Knowing this, Tim and I make even more of an effort to put our phones away, prioritizing family and couple time. And instead of nagging each other about it, we are able to jokingly remind each other that “you’re not just ruining this moment for yourself by being less present, but also for me”. “You’re affecting my happiness!” is a phrase that regularly gets thrown around and is always followed by laughs.

How else has it changed my life? Well, I try to outsmart my brain. I know it is trying to trick me. I know that it makes me happier in the long run to do that laundry, clean the house and have it all tidy when I come down in the morning instead of laying in bed doing nothing binging Netflix after Finn goes to bed. It makes me feel less guilty, less lazy, and like I am a better mom and spouse. A clean organized house gives me much more enjoyment in the long run, than watching yet another show. I kick myself in the butt more often and remind myself of the things that REALLY make me happy. Going through heartbreaking stuff really can tear you down, and even though those are things I cannot change or control, it feels freeing to know that I DO have control over my own happiness. Happiness is possible.

Check out The Happiness Lab here. New episodes every Tuesday.

Gave it a listen? Please share your thoughts below or on Facebook. I would love to hear your feedback!

Another “should have been”

34 and 6. I would (should!) have been 34 weeks and 6 days pregnant today. The longest I’ve ever been pregnant. Finn and I made it to 34 and 6 when he made his rapid entrance. These pictures were taken the evening before I woke up to my water breaking. 34 and 6, it should have been a milestone, instead it’s just another “should have been”.

And here I am, the only one thinking about this. The only one dreading my due date coming up. Pregnancy loss is lonely, people move on, even I do (in a way). Until a trigger or a milestone — a “should have been”, comes along and I grieve. It’s unfair, someone should have been growing in my belly. I miss you little bub, wherever you are. 💫

Why you should stop telling people with anxiety to “just relax”.

I can’t. I want to, but I can’t. I cannot help that my mind makes up the worst case scenarios, that I start getting a tight feeling in my chest, that I’m on edge. I know most people that haven’t experienced anxiety don’t understand, but guess what: I really don’t understand it either. Rationally I know I’m being ridiculous and there are times where I can tell myself that, but there are also times where my anxiety gets the upper hand and freaks out my mind and in return, also my body.

I never really had anxiety. Growing up, I had a great child hood, a good relationship with my family, friends, a good education. Nothing major had happened to me, until I moved across the world at age 25, but let’s be honest; that was something I had control over, something I chose. Sure, it gave me anxiety at times, but not the kind that I can experience today. Not the “something is going to happen to my child/spouse” kind of anxiety I can get at times.

I’ve heard it often, most from the people closest to me. “Just relax”, “Chill Sanne he’s fine” “Why do you see the danger in everything?”.

I had a chat about this with a friend a few weeks back. A friend I have never met in person but I still consider my friend. We connected when we experienced our first miscarriage at the same time, and since then, even though we both eventually got our rainbow baby, we have both been through a lot. She told me she hates it when people tell her to “relax”, to which I replied “I know, I can’t help but see the dangers”. She agreed. And so it got me thinking, how can we let those around us know how to help, or maybe even more important… let them know what does NOT help? My anxiety will not go away simply because you told me to relax or chill out. It actually can give me more anxiety or trigger me because honestly, I wish I could just relax. Believe me when I say: people with anxiety want nothing more than to be able to “just relax”, they just can’t. They can’t help to see the dangers, or that they have irrational fears, thoughts and/or insecurities.These feelings are legitimate for the person who experiences it.

Let me give you an example, when I watch Finn play and explore and climb, I love it and encourage it, I’ll be having a great time with him in the park. Here comes anxiety… All of a sudden I see an image of him slipping and falling and breaking his neck. Not cool anxiety, not cool. I find myself often telling Tim things like “you should watch him better”, “no he can’t have a blanket” and “you didn’t pull his seat belt tight enough”. I literally see dangers everywhere. To be honest, I can hide it quite well, I always try my best not to show Finn, because I know it will affect him. I can also be just fine for days or even weeks, but the anxiety always seems to build up over time and there are times where it catches up to me.

The reality is, when I had my second miscarriage I didn’t think I could ever have kids. And now that I do have one, I’m scared sh*tless that he will be taken away from me. I’m the happiest, but also the most anxious I’ve ever been. Comes with the (loss) mom territory I guess. I’m definitely a different mom than I would have been had I not experienced my hardships. Maybe I would have been a less anxious mom, but maybe also a less strong and grateful mom, I count my lucky stars every night that somehow I get to enjoy Finn every day, I never take him for granted. And he’ll grow up knowing what a miracle he is to both his parents.

So if you ever find yourself wanting to tell an anxious person to “just relax”, please think twice. You probably have no idea how hard we already try, and how much we want to. Oh if only I could, I would, if only I could.

October 15th, the wave of light and Pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

It is October 15th. Exactly two years ago, we announced we were expecting our rainbow baby. For those of you that do not know, a rainbow baby is a child that is born after a loss — the rainbow after the storm. Today is also pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day, at 7 pm tonight, people all over the world will light a candle to remember the babies they lost; causing a wave of light. It really is quite beautiful, but something I would have never known about would I not have been part of this club. The one no one ever wants to be a part of, but the one that 1 in 4 women are. The club whose members mostly suffer alone, because even though it is 2019, there is still a stigma around pregnancy loss, and since going through it myself (times three..) I can honestly say that you really don’t know what its like until it happens to you.

I am one of the lucky ones, I am part of the statistic where more than half of women who suffer recurrent losses go on to have a child, and because of all the hardships we’ve gone through, I never take my son for granted. He truly is my miracle, the one that stuck and held on through all my complications. But even though I’m lucky to have him, that doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with the fact that I lost three pregnancies. Three times of double lines on the test, of telling our parents, of planning for these babies. Not knowing if I can give my son a sibling, even though I told him 6 months ago he was going to be a big brother, because he was, until he wasn’t.

The things that most people don’t realize (unless you’re going through it yourself)

Not many people ever talk about the aftermath, about the triggers. No one talks about how the pharmacist assistant gave me a judgy look and started to ask me questions about the “abortion pill” I had to take, trying to find out if it was indeed for an abortion. My body was so fiercely holding on to a baby who didn’t have a heartbeat anymore, that medical management was necessary for my own health and safety. I remember telling her that yes I was pregnant but no, the baby wasn’t alive anymore. I felt like I needed to defend myself — as if it wasn’t hard enough already. Nobody ever talks about how the medical forms you have to fill out from now on are triggering; Number of pregnancies vs Number of live births. (My stats are 4 vs 1 by the way).

And what is it about society, that when it comes to having children, everyone wants to know or weigh in? The most innocent questions can be triggering for those who are going or have gone through loss, or infertility. I remember getting asked if I wanted children when I just lost two. Of course I did, I just didn’t know if I could even have them, or how many more losses I could take before I decided it was enough.

Now that my son is a year and a half, people often ask me about having another one, most of the time I tell them the truth, which is that I’m not sure if we can. “We’ve had complications”, I tell them. When in reality, we were going to have a baby in two months. And there’s no guarantee that the next one will stay.

Even just hearing people “plan” their pregnancies, or getting pregnant without issues and exactly how they wanted can be triggering. I feel myself getting jealous, not because I want them to experience the same as me, I really wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. It is because I wish I could experience the same. But I know better. A pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean I get to bring a baby home. In fact, for me, 3 of my pregnancies ended in incredible heartbreak, hormone fluctuations and the most intense physical and emotional pain I’ve ever experienced. Seeing those two lines on the stick doesn’t just mean joy for me, it also means next level anxiety.

I often wish I could go back to the girl I once knew, the carefree one. I lost her when I lost my babies, my future with them. Awful things happen, and not just once. Just because it happened once doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, and that became all too prominent for me on this journey.

So tonight, I will light three candles, and remember all what could have been.  

And to whoever is reading this, please remember that everyone might be on a journey you know nothing about, and that even the most innocent questions of all, could be triggering to some of us.

And last but not least, to all the loss mama’s out there, even though it might feel like it sometimes; you are not alone.