Sunday, May 13, 2012

fête des mères

happy mother's day!

my first
mother's day.

my friend wrote
in a letter that
she knows
i am now
a mother
thinks about
me & vee,
she can't really imagine me
as a mother...
i feel the same way.
when i think
of mother's day,
i think of my mother,
not me...
i suppose that
i will feel that way
until vee starts
making me
mother's day cards.

i felt it was
an appropriate day
to tell the story
vee's birth.
my rendition
of the story
is not so positive...

a while back
i asked my mother
to write
her version
of vee's birth
down for posterity.
i think that
it's almost
more appropriate
that you
first hear
vee's birth story
from a mother
her own daughter
a mother.

here's her story
of the night
i became a mother...

. . . . .

omi's story


What an exciting year it was: For my 76th birthday a card from Gwen* arrived with a black and white x-ray print-out of something I did not quite grasp at the moment.When she asked me on the phone, “how I felt about it”, only then did the penny drop, and I realized that it was actually a small “picture” of my future second grand-child.  I could not believe it! It had been such a remote idea because Gwen was at that time totally absorbed in the preparation for her PhD [defense] and the possible move to Switzerland for a post-doctoral position that the arrival of a baby was quite overwhelming. It was a wonderful birthday present indeed.  Now we would have another grand-child, hopefully a girl, but that was probably not in the cards since Grub’s* family tended to boys.

Then came the PhD and the dinner party.

Then came the packing and preparations for a life abroad.

Then les adieux from Bear [Grub's cat] and his travel to the west coast, Olympia, WA.

Then the new life in Neuchâtel with all its challenging new impressions, new language, new everything.

And during all this time the baby was growing, and so was future mommy Gwen.

On her blog we could follow some of the ups and downs of their new life in a beautiful foreign land.

And so the time passed…

The date calculated for the arrival of the baby was Sept. 8, 2011, a day before the birthday of cousin Jonah who would turn 5 years this September. Of course a mother should be at her daughter’s side when the momentous moment arrived, and so I did not want to arrive after the baby’s arrival and thought that a few days prior to the date would be alright.  Judging by my own five deliveries-all of which occurred exactly one week prior to the expected date-I left Seattle on Saturday September 3rd and arrived in Zürich on Sunday morning 10 o’clock.  Grub and their friend Jes awaited me. The baby had not surprised us yet. So I was in time.

After an hour’s train ride through the beautiful Swiss countryside past mountains, shimmering lakes and distant snowcapped Alps, we arrived in lovely Neuchâtel; where a very pregnant, with a surprisingly prominent belly, Gwen awaited us in a van and we drove to their apartment on Edmond de Reynier. A lovely apartment on the 4th floor with a beautiful view of Lake Neuchâtel and the distant Alps.

It was the 4th of September 2011, only 4 more days to go. Both Gwen and Grub were ready, crib, cloths etc. ready for the newcomer, the sunny room waiting for its little occupant.

Now it was just a matter of time. Gwen was well, the baby kicked vigorously, and in spite of the big belly we went all over Neuchâtel and its sights, its market, sat in cafes and hoped for the big twinge….

And so we waited…
One week…

wee grub: 40 weeks

Then another week until the obstetrician decided to encourager l’accouchement by prescribing some homeopathic medicines. Still nothing.

My brother Edgar and his wife Conny had decided to visit from Bremen, Germany, on this week-end and perhaps see the new baby and me.  They arrived late Friday afternoon and we had one of Grub’s famous fondue dishes that same night at their apartment.

weegrub: 41weeks

Saturday Gwen was to go to the salle d’accouchement at the Hôpital Pourtales which was right around the corner and a very fine looking medical facility. If nothing had happened up until then, labor was to be induced that afternoon. Gwen had her little bag packed. However, as there was “no room in the salle d’accouchement,” she was sent back home and asked to return the next day, Sunday 18th afternoon.


I had spent some time with Edgar and Conny (it was a rainy day) walking around Neuchâtel, and later Gwen and Grub joint us to our surprise and we heard the story of the postponed delivery.  It sounded somewhat bizarre and funny, but we all had a wonderful evening in town eating raclette, boiled potatoes, pickles and drank a lot of white wine and standing in the rain under an umbrella in the market place.


Raclette is a very typical Swiss dish consisting of "grilled cheese," a special kind of cheese.  It tasted surprisingly good, and we all had seconds. Gwen seemed fine and cheerful and we stayed out in another café till late. “Gwen ist eine ziemlich starke Frau, dass sie mit ihrem dicken Bauch noch ausgeht und sich vergnuegt!” (Gwen is quite a strong woman to be able to walk around with her big belly and enjoy herself), Edgar said.  The women he knew would have languished away on some ottoman awaiting her hour!

And so Sunday the 18th September arrived with the church bell calling from the Basilica down the street and I walked down the steep street to the 9 o’clock mass to do some heavy duty praying for an easy delivery of a healthy child. Grub and Gwen were to return to the Hôptial Pourtales after lunch. After mass I went to the Hotel du Lac where Edgar and Conny were staying and where we were to have petit dejeuner together. I left them to do their own sightseeing and returned to the apartment to see Gwen and Grub off to the hospital. Grub would call if something were to happen.  Later I was informed that the labor had not started and that she would be induced now. I went over to the hospital which was only a five minutes walk. Gwen shared the room with another woman who had been waiting for her labor. We sat together and talked and Gwen felt fine if somewhat uncomfortable with her heavy belly and the waiting time. Nurses and sage femmes came and examined her and finally it was decided that the moment had come for the [induction]. From then on all went quite rapidly.  I had, of course, no idea how long this kind of induced labor would take but expected it to go like a normal delivery.  Gwen began to have labor pains now, she lay there with closed eyes and tried to use the breathing method she had been prepared to use but somehow the pains were not spaced as under normal conditions but developed faster. From my own experience I know that it would be painful especially if you were an onlooker and see the person you love suffer. However, how do you judge pain if you are not the one who endures it? I knew at the final stage the pain would be unbearably intense, and so we thought this was quite normal, as we were assured it was.  It must have been past 6 pm when the physician and sage femme decided she should go to the salle d’accouchement (the actual delivery room) now since the labor had set in quite forcefully. Gwen had demanded that her husband should be with her in the delivery room which is not normally a custom there as I understood. Mothers were not welcome. I say Gwen in great agony being rolled out of the room and I said to Grub to please call my cell phone to let me know who things were going; I would be downstairs in the café waiting.

I waited. I knew it would probably take two to three hours. By 8pm I could no longer stand it and went up to Maternite to find out how far along things were. “O”, the nurse said. “Allez la bas a numero?” “le bebé est arrive!” I was shocked because nobody had called me, and so I rushed to the indicated room and there was Grub and some physician or nurse and Grub said, “meet Valérie Flynn!” and there in the little bed lay a girl! A girl indeed! Her eyes were wide open and she looked at me with a disapproving frown on her little forehead. I was overwhelmed: there she was, a little Valérie, already washed and swaddled and her Daddy looked totally exhausted. Only then did I find out the terrible ordeal that Gwen had gone through and that she had had a Caesarian section! Why? Grub seemed totally beside himself because Gwen had gone through a terrifying delivery: the contractions had been so strong and fast that it was feared that the baby may be harmed and consequently they had to deliver the child by [emergency] Caesarian.


I only wished Grub had called me right away even though I could not have done anything.

Gwen was still in the recovery room where the sage femme was taking the baby and Grub so that “the little family would have their first moments together” as she said, later I could see her in her room. There was my own little daughter with her little daughter and her name was Valérie like grandma’s! It was an emotional moment seeing her totally exhausted and attached to various machines. Pauvre petite, but it was over and the prize: a healthy little girl with dark hair and a little frown on her forehead.


Welcome darling Valérie Flynn to this world. May God bless you and your parents.


A very grateful and happy Omi


* note:  i replaced 
our given names 
in my mother's story 
with the names that
i use on this blog

. . . . .

grub and i
will tell
our stories
some day soon.

until then
my love
to all of you
mother's out there
past, present,
and future.
we are
so very
to have you.

happy mother's day.




  1. happy mother's day to you !
    i wish i had gotten it together to send you stuff, but alas....
    i love that you and vee have matching stripes in the first photo !

    and what a great story from your mom....

  2. Happy mother's day to a very wonderful mother!

  3. Love! the first picture of you and Vee smiling together!! Happy first mother's day to you both!!

  4. Anonymous22 May, 2012

    A belated mother's day to you!
    we have been following you closely, but have been terrible about writing.
    your photos are poignant and your words beautiful
    we hope your research is going as wonderfully as your family life
    Peter (&Stacie)

  5. Thank you for sharing your story through your mother's eyes. It was lovely to read. Happy belated Mother's day.


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