Journal Pages: Birth & Early Days

There's a show people kept recommending to me before we had Jacob, called 'The Longest Shortest Time'. Besides it indeed being a great podcast for parents, the title is also very apt - especially of those first days, weeks, and months with a newborn. 

With a small baby, somehow you're incredibly busy all day keeping this little being alive and well (take a pick between breakfast or showering before noon, you can't have both even though you've been up since 6 am), yet you do 'nothing' for long stretches of time as well. Whole chunks of the night, staring in silence at your baby's suckling lips, his fat little face, eyes closed. The endless rocking, and patting on the back to get him to burp (victory!). The many diapers you change and how you actually become incredibly interested in its contents (apologies for judging you before, friends with kids). Days and nights seem to linger on and on, and sleep often far away, yet somehow then he's a month older and has gained 2 kilos. It's strange, absolutely beautiful, and utterly exhausting, these early days. Below some journal pages on our little man's birth and the first weeks afterwards. Just a few drawings, but I'm proud to have managed to do them at least.

Jacob was born by 'elective' caesarian (backstory here) and although some women who have gone through this seem to feel like they 'failed' in some way, I honestly thought it was a wonderful experience. Having been in and out of the hospital often as a child, I don't have a dislike for hospitals or even surgery, and the whole affair was quite chilled. I walked into 'theatre', got a spinal block set up (meh), lied down while waiting for the numbness to set in, and not ten minutes later I was handed my beautiful baby boy. The doctors and nurses were nice and professional, I was comfortable throughout the procedure and afterwards, and was I able to go home swiftly and without complications. I do wish I had had at least one contraction (just out of curiosity), and I definitely hope to have our next child the 'natural' way (mostly for their sake!), but above all it was still the most wonderful day of my life despite it not being how we had originally envisoned it. I feel incredibly grateful for being able to meet our healthy baby boy in such a calm setting (they even played music!) and not bleeding to death (you know). Yay, modern medicine!

Designed: Jacob's Birth Announcement

Even though we live in London, and our son will no doubt grow up to be a Londoner (provided we stay here), we are, of course, a Dutch family. We speak Dutch at home, eat stamppot when it gets cold, and import our hagelslag (yes, grown men eat this on their toast for breakfast) by the boatload. 

Another Dutch tradition we chose to honor, was sending out a geboortekaartje after Jacob was born. I think the correct translation is 'birth announcement', although I've been met with many blank stares by my British colleagues when talking about these cards.

I created the design months before Jacob actually arrived (as soon as we'd decided on the name) and then after my c-section I just had to fill out the few missing details like his birth weight and time. The illustration was inspired by Mr. Floor's love of sailing, our shared love of travel, and the obvious symbolism of life being a journey. The design was based on modernist illustrators like Charlie Harper. The poem on the back (in Dutch) is a poem by a Dutch comedian, singer, and writer Toon Hermans. It stresses the importance of dreaming a little in life. 

I had the cards printed by Moo, as I've been content with their quality in the past and they're local to London (and I actually have visited their offices and printing presses for work a few years ago). I wanted the card to be something special and heavy; something people might hold on to for a bit, and the thick 'luxe' card stock with colored seam were perfect. 

I'd written all the envelopes beforehand (mat leave, y'all, it's a precious thing), and we sent out the cards a week after Jacob was born. The stamp on the back is from The English Stamp Company (who create lovely bespoke stamps, I can recommend them). 

So that's the story behind Jacob's birth announcement! Much better than a Facebook post, no?

Journal Pages: The Final Days of Pregnancy

Friends who had been pregnant before had told me that by the end, they 'could not wait' to go on maternity leave. That it felt like they'd been pregnant forever, and that this baby was simply never going to come out.

I won't lie and say I wasn't over it by the end. My ribs were hurting, I couldn't sleep at all, but most importantly: I couldn't wait to finally meet our little man. The whole point of becoming pregnant, after all, was so we would have a baby, and I felt like I'd waited long enough. 

Going on maternity leave, however, was kind of strange for me. I don't think I've ever been away from anything for this long (I'm very fortunate my employer gives me six months fully paid). Summer holidays in college were pretty long (like three months?) and by the end I was itching to get back to it. I also absolutely LOVE my job. It's challenging, interesting, and my colleagues not just feel like but are my actual friends. Would I not go mad just sitting at home?

It turned out not to be too bad. I made sure I got out every day, and mentally and physically prepared for our baby's birth. Very necessary, as things did not go according to our lovely well-thought out birth plan (of course). Our boy decided to do a somersault at 37 weeks and sit upright like a little Buddha.

Breech babies usually do not make for lovely natural water births (in most cases, I hear it does happen), and after a painful and unsuccessful attempt to turn him (an 'external cyphalic version', or ecv) we were offered a choice: plan in an elective caesarian or find a doctor willing to have you try it the 'natural' way, most likely to still end in an emergency caesarian. I know there's people who have done this (or have managed to push breech babies out the 'natural' way) and I have DEEP respect for their courage and strength, but that wasn't me. And so we left the hospital with a date for our son's birth - the Friday after. 

Those last days were strange, and I spent the days preparing myself mentally and physically. I set up the baby's room, went out for coffee, removed all traces of cosmetics and jewelry (which required a trip to the piercing studio), read up on c-sections, and planned my last meal before the big day. I don't know if I felt 'ready' (or if you ever truly can be ready), but I did feel calm and mostly excited. Bring on that baby!

Mat Leave Crafts Part 1: Wooden Block Mobile

My parental leave has started, which means I spend most of my days cleaning the house, watching Law & Order SVU, reading up on childbirth, looking for my toes, and... handmaking our baby a boatload of things he doesn't really need. 

                                                            I seeee you (almost)!

One of those things is a little mobile, made from second hand wooden blocks I got at the charity shop. I read somewhere that babies' brains are stimulated by (black and white) patterns, and wanted to make our little boy something to that would get those synapses firing.

A few years ago my talented friend Kim made a gorgeous little mobile for her baby boy (see blog post here, she occasionally also sells them in , but they go quickly) and I was inspired to get crafty myself. 

I'm quite pleased with how these turned out, and it was fun to do, despite my dislike for literally watching paint dry (just kidding, I cleaned my fridge and labeled everything in the hospital bag while waiting. I am turning into horror mom already). 

                                                 Waiting for the first layer of paint to dry.

For instructions on how to make your own mobile, check out Kim's post, and these (link 1) two (link 2) tutorials on the Etsy blog! 

Journal Pages: #DecafBrain

"Being pregnant is hilarious" said my friend, as she was describing how by 8 months she couldn't tie her own shoe laces.

Now that I'm 8 months along, I am enjoying myself immensely of course. Also, ordering decaf in Rome is almost as much fun as misreading signs ('deep tuna massage' anyone?) due to #babybrain, which I think is more like #Imnotsleepingandoffofcaffeinebrain. 

Journal Pages: Iceland, Canada, USA

Somehow I feel like I'm doing this pregnancy thing all wrong. Well, mostly I feel great, but people keep commenting on how I should be taking it easy and focus on resting and relaxing before our precious little one arrives to come and take it all away. 

Rest and relaxation wasn't really what we had in mind when we booked our trip to Iceland and Canada earlier this year (before we knew we were pregnant), and work happened to ramp up right at the same time. So here's the story all about how, my life got flipped-turned upside down. Or, I mean how I non-stop traveled for a month while 6 months pregnant. 

Pre-Baby House Tour

A lot of friends have been asking me whether we're planning to move now that we've got a little one coming. Like most Londoners, we're in a one bedroom 'flat' (apartment) with little budgetary room to wiggle our way into something bigger that's not an hour or two away from work or would bankrupt us within six months. So the answer is no. We're not moving. 

As I imagine it will be interesting to see how we'll manage to squeeze in the babe in between the lack of storage space and came-with-the-flat bolted down IKEA stuff, I thought I'd give you all a 'before' tour of the house now, and come back in a few months from now when we've set up our baby gear. 

Living Room

The living room is by far the largest space in the house. It has large bay sash windows and holds a lot of our second hand and up cycled treasures. It's also where my studio nook is. It's tiny, but it's more than most people have and Jochem is often jealous of my miniature desk (an original Gispen), even if I end up accidentally knocking off my notebook, watercolors, water, tea, etc. while working.  

Bedroom

The bedroom came fully furnished (as did most of the house, originally), and most of the furniture here wasn't bought by us, with the exception of the bed. We decided to splurge on the bed when we moved in and it's been the best decision ever. Memory foam FTW. The bedroom has a large sash window overlooking the garden. 

Kitchen

Most of the kitchen is kind of a mess, but it's large enough and has a breakfast bar (my favorite) and a door leading to the shared garden (Jochem's favorite). It's airy and bright and I love sitting here in the morning with a cup of (now decaf) coffee. Not pictured: the dirty dishes. It's my blog, I can pretend I'm a good person here. 

Also not pictured in this post is our bathroom. We have a bath, but honestly, that whole space just depresses me. It needs a paint job and then some, so perhaps in the future I'll do a before & after on the bathroom. 

Hope you enjoyed that little tour!

Commissions: All in the Family

Lately, I've been trying to hold off on taking on too many commissions. I've been doing a lot of travel and the pregnancy is taking up its fair share of energy as well. I've got one more wedding invite to finish before my maternity leave, but other than that I've mostly been working on a baby book for our little one and trying to keep up my own journal pages.

Here's two commissions I did do this past year, both for family. I also hand lettered 350 place cards for a friend's wedding (which was surprisingly relaxing), but I forgot to take pictures.

Samme's Born!

I had the honor of designing my nephew's birth announcement. He was born back in November, and he's the absolute cutest of course. I love working with my brother and sister in law, as they always know exactly what they like and don't like. It helps when people have a clear idea of what they have in mind (and have somewhat of an understanding of the design process). 

Party Invite

Exiting things are happening in my family, as my youngest brother is getting married next year. Because our stepmom has recently fallen quite ill, and we're not sure how long we'll still have her with us, my brother and soon-to-be sister in law decided to organize a small gathering for all of the parents in honor of them getting their wedding license. We had to throw this one together in quite a rush, so we used a drawing I made of them in my journal before from when they got engaged (see here) and turned it into an invite. It was total card blanche from their end, so this went to press with only minor adjustments.