Wherever life plants you

Eva-Maria Smith writes an honest blog on motherhood, slow living and "hygge" lifestyle. She is the lifestyle photographer and writer behind "House of Smilla". 
Eva-Maria Smith writes an honest blog on motherhood, slow living and "hygge" lifestyle. She is the lifestyle photographer and writer behind "House of Smilla". 
Eva-Maria Smith writes an honest blog on motherhood, slow living and "hygge" lifestyle. She is the lifestyle photographer and writer behind "House of Smilla". 
Eva-Maria Smith writes an honest blog on motherhood, slow living and "hygge" lifestyle. She is the lifestyle photographer and writer behind "House of Smilla". 
blooms

Generally, I don't talk much about my husband's military career. For obvious security reasons, but also, because although it is a big part of my life, it is not necessarily what I identify with as an individual. However, every few years our way of life sends us in a new direction. A new assignment typically means a new zip code, a new country and perhaps, a new continent even.

In four weeks time, our home will be completely packed up in boxes, put into crates and shipped across the Atlantic. My husband will start a new chapter in his career and the kids and I will spend the summer with my family in the south of Germany, before re-uniting in our new home for the next year: Del Rio, TX. 

This is hard. Really, hard on me. 

Texas (and please don't take this personal) is not my first choice. Mostly, because I'm very fair and Texas is very hot. I kid you not when I quote my dermatologist "Texas? I'm sorry, but Iceland wold be a better choice for you". 

In the end, the problem is not where we are headed - it's the simple fact that we are leaving.

The only "home" my daughter knows. The "home", I birthed two babies in. The "home" we became a family in.

Three years ago we left the Seattle area (a place we loved) for Germany with euphoria and a tiny baby growing inside of me. I felt giddy at the prospect of spending a few years "back home". Looking back, the time spent here was full of happiness, and sometimes, full of sadness, but it was always very full. We had Smilla, traveled to countless countries, enjoyed every second with my childhood companions, and miraculously conceived another baby. We made wonderful memories with my father, and then, were by his side, holding his hand in the hours he left this world. 

Sure, I married a traveling man and I knew what I was in for. My twenty-five year old adventurous self marveled in the prospect of experiencing different parts of the world. However, while I still feel the want to travel somewhere deep inside me, becoming a mother has made me a person with the desire to nest. I feel deeply rooted here.

There are obvious adjustments that come with moving. I have to find a new home, new friends, new ways around new towns. Then, I have to find my new self in a way. You see, every time  I leave a place, I leave some part of myself behind and I take some of that place with me instead. It is engrained in my heart, my ways, my attitude. My growing self needs tending to, re-discovering and nourishing.

It is what it is. Come September, I will be living in "the middle of nowhere" Texas, right by the Mexican border. 

I know we will be fine. Everything always turns out fine. 

In the meantime, I try to look at the bright side (hello, Enchiladas!). I try to mend my breaking heart and say my goodbyes with gratitude. 

And then there is always that old French Proverb that helps

Wherever life plants you
bloom with grace

Hyggelig motherhood moments

Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com
Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com
Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com
Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com
Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com
Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com
Creating Hygge moments in daily mothering. House of Smilla is a lifestyle blog by Eva-Maria SMith about motherhood, slow living, hygge and simplicity www.houseofsmilla.com

Last week I was all by myself with my two littles for the very first time. I went from the luxury, of having my husband and then his parents around to help, to all by myself day and night. Surprisingly, the week went pretty well and I not only survived, but actually emerged from it relatively relaxed and with a new sense of self-confidence.

I find that mothering two is not so bad. That is, if mothering is all I do. By the end of each day, I just plopped on the couch with some tea, or even a glass of red and just let the sounds of not-so-high-quality TV wash over me. 

So my conclusion from last week is, that two things help me tremendously in this new role as a mother of two: I can't stress over tasks uncompleted too much (a bit of whining about it is totally natural) and I have to have little "hygge" moments throughout my day in order to keep my sanity intact. Little isles of calm.

I let the light in. I have a window in my bedroom that can't be fully closed off and so the morning light can come right through it. Waking up to natural light has felt so good lately. I don't mind that its early, either. It gives me time to wake up in peace, before Smilla screams at me from her crib, or baby demands his milk. So I just lay there a few moments with my head towards the morning light and think about the day ahead. I stare at my son next to me and watch him sleep a little longer. Some mornings he wakes up smiling at me. The mornings are simply wonderful, when I get to stare at this little being breathing next to me. 

I'm mindful about the things I'm grateful for. I didn't come up with this genius idea. I'm certainly not the first one to write about it. However, now that my planner has a designated weekly spot for "good things that happened" I'm finally jotting down just that. After a hard day in the motherhood, it is a gentle reminder of how beautiful life is. I have a new appreciation about the rough moments and can stay calmer through them. Just yesterday, I showed Smilla a new dress I bought for her and she ran away screaming, then there was crying, then she banged her head against her wooden toy drum (what?) and all this, because of a new summer dress. It was horribly frustrating at the time, but just a few hours later it moved into my "these are the moments I want to remember" part of the brain. 

I turn on sweet sweet melodies. Music makes everything better. Miles Davis, while making coffee in the morning. Gregory Alan Isakov for the afternoon play-doh time. Coltrane for winding down on the couch at night. The right tune, at the right time does wonders to my mood.  

I send warm thoughts to my friends. Hygge is all about togetherness, but lately I have found it hard to make time to be in touch with all my dear ones.  Hopefully, they will be forgiving and understanding towards me and still be around once I get done with changing nappies and breastfeeding one day and have the mental capacity to talk about adult things. In the meantime though, I think about them - a lot. I send them good vibes and wishes and a whole lot of love. Hopefully, this quantum physics thing is all true, and somewhere, on some deeper level they feel all that, because I just don't find the time right now for long phone calls and long messages, but I do really love them very much. 

I seek comfort under the covers. When life gets to fast, I try to retreat under the covers. Nap-time cuddles with Winter have such a rejuvenating effect on me. I need them and he needs them, too. Plenty of kisses and tickles and stories under some wool blankets with my Smilla are soothing and plentiful these days. I need these moments and she, more than anything, needs these moments alone with me, too. Lastly, snuggling up together in the evening, talking about the things life throws our way with my man is so very important. Even just laying together in stillness is comforting. I need that, and my man really needs his wife, too. So, really, the whole family needs to get "hyggelig" with blankets and pillows and soft feathery goodness under our heads. 

I light my candles. Every time I write anything about hygge, it seems candles are on the list. Rightfully so. The soft, yellow glow is soothing after a long day of being mom. I close the curtains, light some candles and know the day's work is done and it is time to relax. 

I forgive myself. I used to be very hard on myself. About the laundry, about the dishes, about the toys, about the unwritten words and the unedited photos, about so many more things. Now I'm trying to practice acceptance and forgiveness towards myself, as I am a beautiful mother to two beautiful children, but I'm also only human and I have to face it - I can't do it all. 

 

SHOP SMALL:

The beautiful woolen shoes you see in the photographs are made by "WoolenClogs". I found Aiste's shop on etsy and was thrilled she agreed on collaborating with me. Aiste is another great talent and maker from Lithuania. Lately, I have been so impressed with the small shop owners there and how wonderful and friendly they are, besides being incredibly skilled. Aiste told me her day job left her reeling and in need for some personal space and quiet and that is when she started working on "WoolenClogs". The work with natural materials, creating warmth and coziness with her own hands helped her relax and so eventually she created her own hygge workplace to help others get more relaxed and comfy (and her shoes are oh so comfy!). Now, the store is her family business and she loves having her husband work side by side with her all the time. Her slippers and clogs are really worth taking a look. You can follow along with her on Instagram @luckyaiste

The slow weeks

Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks

Historically, women have passed on the tradition of how to rest postpartum from mother to mother, from India to Mexico. The deep understanding that to care for the mother is as vital as to care for the baby is - unfortunately - something, that seems to have gotten lost in the Western societies of twenty seventeen.  

Nowadays, mothers feel the urge to "bounce back" to their normal lives, their pre-pregnancy bodies and their daily routines as fast as possible. It seems almost like a race, with the mother who is out and about first, winning the supermom trophy. Particularly in the Unites States, where paternity leave is much less than Europe, women go back to the "daily grind" much faster. At what cost?

The few weeks after having a baby are a unique and special transitioning period that needs special attention and care. We go from "life before baby" to "life with baby" and being a mother, wether it is the first child or the fifth. The mother's body, who has magically expanded over nine months to grow a child and has had the ability to birth it, needs rest and special attention in order to heal and restore energy and strength. Birth and the hormonal transitions right after come with blood loss, sleep deprivation, hair loss, night sweats, headaches, and more. A mother's breastfeeding journey often comes with difficulties, but in any case with the feeling of "being drained" of one's energy. Not to mention the emotions every mother feels in these first few weeks - love, happiness, anxiety, angst, more love. It can be confusing to identify one's emotions, even if you are someone normally in touch with your feelings. 

Many cultures around the world still honor this time as a special, if not holy period in a women's life. In Korea "samchilil" is a twenty-one to thirty day period of special maternal care. In Malaysia's "pantang" the mother receives massages, exfoliations, baths and more to restore the life source in her womb. Forty day rest periods are honored in Jordan, Egypt, Palastine and plenty of other countries. In Zambia, women are banned from all work around the house until the umbilical cord falls off. In Vietnam, parents wont introduce their babies to strangers for six whole weeks. There are so many examples around the world of how a woman's transition to motherhood can be made a period of rest and well-being, rather than stress, pressure and anxiety. It is believed, that the rest postpartum is an investment in future health - healthy pregnancies, better skin, easier menopause, less signs of aging just to name a few examples. 

Personally, I remember the first few weeks after my daughter was born as the most wonderful time of my life. My husband and I retreated from the world to get to know this new life and this new addition to the family. We hardly welcomed people into our home and only went out for leisurely walks or short outings to our favorite coffee places for the whole first month. A time from which we emerged with feelings of deep love for each other, confidence to parent this baby, physically rejuvenated and generally relaxed. I will always cherish these three weeks as some of the best of my life.

These first weeks with baby Winter have not been quite so relaxing, as is to be anticipated when you also have to take care of your toddler. On top of that, we all came down with horrible colds, which meant that I got out of bed a lot sooner and helped out a bit more around the house than planned. Also, because Winter arrived twelve days past his due date, the visits we had arranged with family members and friends fell right into our first forty days, providing us with much needed help, but also a bit more commotion in the house. Despite all that, I have made sure to enjoy these first special weeks to the fullest. I firmly believe, that it is not just every mothers right, but duty to honor this restful period, to get pampered, cared for and to take time to heal and to bond with the new soul that she created. Also, it is important for all fathers to be able to take some time off, to get to know the little being, be included in all aspects of caring for this new life and to restore strength after the emotional and  physical (yes, even for the father or any birth partner) experience of birth. 

Every family needs their "slow weeks", as I would like to call them. Historically, geographically and personally there are many different ways to celebrate a new mother. To me, a few things are particularly important and we have tried to incorporate these into our life these past few weeks. 

A "cozy nest" for starters. We spend so much time preparing a nursery, but what about the mother's bedroom and living space? After all, a woman most likely spends much more time in bed, or on the couch than in the nursery in those first few weeks after birth. Me and my husband made sure our home was clean and prepared for Winter's arrival. Due to having a home birth, we spent the first ten nights on a comfy mattress in the living room, as it adjourns to the kitchen and a bathroom and therefore I could avoid climbing stairs so soon after birth. It was nice to watch my toddler and husband play, my mother prepare healing food in the kitchen and the baby snuggling with me, as I was bedded in a comfortable, cushiony place by the window light. Once we moved back upstairs into our bedroom loft, I put on the soft new linen sheets I had previously purchased with the "laying in" period in mind (in German we call this time "Wochenbett" - which loosely translates to "weeks in bed"). I placed cherry tree branches in a vase next to my bed, in order to bring spring inside. It serves as my cozy retreat in the evening, and during naps. After an emotionally and physically challenging day it is my safe place to retreat with the baby for extra skin-on-skin time and bonding moments. 

I read, that in Chinese medicine it is believed that a lot of a women's "jing" is lost during childbirth (one big reason being blood loss). In order to restore it, a diet of exclusively warming foods and drinks is recommended. In the last few weeks, I mainly stuck to healing soups, comforting stews, and a lot of hot tea (a mix of fennel, anis and carraway is my breastfeeding power drink, as you can read here). One day I was craving a salad for lunch and didn't think twice about it - the whole day I felt shaky and significantly less energetic. For breakfast I have particularly enjoyed a steaming bowl of oatmeal, topped with a variety of nuts, seeds and fruit. 

Speaking of warmth. In the book "the first forty days" I have read that "At the foundation of many mother-care protocols is the practice of preserving and building warmth in the body. A woman's blood volume almost doubles during pregnancy to support her growing baby; after birth, the loss of this excess of warm, circulating blood, combined with her open state, means that heat must be recaptured and circulation boosted to optimize healing.". To me this was the perfect invitation, to cuddle up in my blankets and comfortable cardigans. Since I tend to have cold feet, I made sure to always wear my cozy wool slippers. 

One thing that is hard to do in our busy lives is to remember to rest, rest, rest during these "slow weeks" and beyond. I try to lay down at least once during the day, preferably snuggled up with my new baby. It takes quite a habit shift to accept help and take time out of our bustling days. Family nap time is very much valued in our house. It restores me and gives me strength to be the relaxed mother I want to be for the remaining hours until bedtime. Sleep loss is a big thing to get adjusted to, during pregnancy and in the weeks and months after adding a child into the family. Instead of numbing the feeling of exhaustion with coffee, it is important to make room for some down time throughout the day. This is easier said then done, but I'm working on being very good about my "rest time". 

It hasn't been easy to refuse invitations to the cafe, or to the park. I'm not used to saying no to social gatherings. The nice spring weather has lured me out to do more than I had planned to do at this point. However, I still try to retreat from the world and "regular daily life" as much as I can. It will still be waiting there for me, once I'm healed, rested up and ready to take my son (whom I will have gotten to know a whole lot better then) out into the so big, so blue, so beautiful world. 

SHOP SMALL:

The beautiful linen you see in the photographs are made by "Magic Linen". The wonderful Vita who creates them, told me linen were always part of her life, wether she looks back on her grandparents tablecloths or her mothers dress. She remembers the unbelievable durability. Lithuania, were Vita is from, has a deep tradition of growing, weaving and sewing linen. She tells me it is something in their blood, that was  a bit forgotten in the last century, but is now fashionable again. She is proud to have started this small company and the people in it, that make these wonderful linen goods by hand. Linen fabric is breathable and possesses rare healing properties, reduces gamma radiation, is anti-bacterial, thermo-regulating and extremely durable. The sentence that stuck out to me the most when communicating with Vita over my linen order was "In the times of mass production, consumption, rush, we all turn to seek for something natural, crafted with love, long lasting, REAL." - how true. Vita's work has hundreds of joyful feedbacks and I hope you go take a look at her beautiful store