Destiny can always surprise us, regardless of how well prepared and stable we may think we are.
My name is Luminita Nemes. I spent 37 years of my life in Romania with no plans to move countries.
I decided to have a baby when I turned 33. Back then, I was still married, in a steady relationship, and I considered myself pretty happy. I thought that I had reached that point in time when everything was going as planned and when there were no more surprises on the way for me. I was wrong.
I faced a long and very difficult pregnancy and unfortunately, I had to stay home for half of it, therefore I had to take medical leave, which was a pity, considering how much I love my job as a Bid Manager. Working from home long term is not encouraged by law or employers in Romania and usually people go to the office on a daily basis.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The doctors monitoring me suspected my baby of having trisomy 18, also known as the Edwards syndrome, so I ended up doing an amniocentesis, with all associated risks.[/perfectpullquote]
Happily, though, the result turned out negative and my daughter was born just fine. Instead of having a natural birth, I had a C-section, since the doctors insisted on it. In Romania, unlike other countries, most ladies deliver their babies using a C-section, since it is considered easier for both the mother and the child. The doctors in Romania also advocate for C-sections as a benefit over natural birth.
Now, looking back, I would have chosen differently. Anyway, I ended up with a beautiful little girl. Although I had big issues with my breasts and ended up at the hospital with mastitis more than one time, I refused to give up on breastfeeding and I did it until I had to go back to work.
One Fateful Morning
When my daughter turned 1 month, during a sunny October morning, my husband went out for his usual walk with our fluffy old dog, came back home, managed to tell me briefly that his chest was in pain, collapsed on the floor and died in my arms, in 5 minutes, before the ambulance managed to reach us. Later on, I found out that he had an aortic rupture and, considering the severity of the event, he would have died even if he had been in a hospital at that moment.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]So there I was, with a small baby in my arms and a dog sitting next to me, completely alone and in shock, having to deal with motherhood and losing my partner at the same time.[/perfectpullquote]
People don’t usually talk too much about such traumatising events, not only because they remain painful, regardless of how much help you may have gotten or how much time may have passed, but also because it’s almost impossible to describe in words the grief, the shock, and the incredible sense of loneliness you remain with. I am writing about it only because I’m thinking that it can help other people as well, mothers especially, in difficult moments.
Anyway, somehow, only due to my little girl, I managed to move on. Very slowly initially, then faster and faster. I had to return to the office when she was 1 year old, since in Romania the legal absence for raising a child is 1-2 years, and work did me good, helped me heal even more. I hired a babysitter to help me with my daughter, since I had to work long hours, until 6-7 PM. My parents also helped me occasionally. I refused to give my dog away, although people around me insisted that I won’t manage both my child, my job and an animal as well, and my daughter grew up having him around her all the time, playing and even sleeping in the same bed with him. Having an animal has so many benefits for a child!Did you know doctors in #Romania advocate #Csections over #naturalbirths? Click To Tweet
After 2 years, I started talking more with one of my colleagues from another country. Without realizing, we got close and grew fond of each other. Then we wanted to meet in person, so I had my first vacation, after having a child, in Prague, for a week, which was magical. Then we started officially dating and building a long-distance relationship with small steps. About a year ago, we decided to make the big change and move in together, so that we may become a real family. Between Romania and Belgium, we decided that the best option for the three of us would be Belgium. That’s how I ended up moving to Brussels with my daughter.
Learning System in Belgium
My first contact with Belgian rules was with finding a French-speaking school for my daughter. For a couple of months, I had to conduct serious research in order to be able to find an institution which still had available places or where I could put her on the waiting list. This was something very different from what I was used to in Romania, where you don’t have this kind of a problem. However, after she started, she got used to the new language, teachers, and colleagues in almost no time.
So far, from my perspective, the schools and the entire learning system here are quite different than what we experienced for a year in Romania. First of all, I welcomed the exposure to various religions, languages, and the multicultural environment. My daughter wasn’t used to something like that and initially, she found it very different from what she was used to, of course, but then she adapted quite rapidly and made lots of new friends. In my experience, a small child usually can adapt much easier to a new culture than a grown-up can and absorb a new language amazingly fast.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Interacting with children who speak other languages or are from other religions is not that common in Romania.[/perfectpullquote]
As a result, most teachers are not prepared to deal with children not speaking Romanian or come from families embracing other religions besides the Orthodox one.
Here in Belgium, however, we found very nice and kind teachers who were willing to spend more time with her and teach her French. To my surprise, within a couple months of starting school, my daughter was already able to communicate in French!
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Another reason my daughter picked up French so fast is that my partner is French and speaks five languages fluently. At home, we speak in three languages all the time: I speak with my daughter in Romanian, since I definitely want her to continue to improve her skills in her mother tongue. I speak English with my partner and my daughter speaks to him in French. It may sound weird for others, but for us it works perfectly, not to mention that we all get to be exposed to three languages all the time. Since my daughter’s biological father passed away immediately after she was born, she connected very well with my current partner from the beginning and, for her, he is the only father figure she’s ever known.
As my daughter and I got acclimated to living here, I discovered a few more differences between the Romanian and Belgian ways of doing things. In Romania, during summer time, there are no similar ‘stages de vacance’ or similar activities for engaging children like in Belgium, therefore kids usually stay home with their grandparents or with babysitters.
Having a full-time babysitter is also something very common in Romania since it’s not as expensive as it is in Belgium. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Most kindergartens in Romania close around noon, therefore, if you are a full-time working parent, you definitely need some additional help with the child until you get home or when they are sick.[/perfectpullquote]
Usually, children remain at home with their mothers until they turn 3-years-old. Crèches are few and with conditions which are far from ideal, therefore most people don’t use them. This is partly because maternity leave to which mothers are entitled to according to the law after having a baby is much longer in Romania (minimum1 year, maximum 2) than the one available in Belgium.
Most kids are sent to kindergarten once they turn 3-years-old. At six, kids start attending regular school.
Overall, we are very happy with the Belgian learning system so far and I definitely welcome having a multilingual child. It remains to be seen how she will further develop in school, but the first year has been a very promising one for us.
Did you face any challenges while pregnant or right after childbirth? Do you know of stories of resilience and life-altering moments that you would like to share? Don’t forget to write them in your comments below or write to us at email@example.com.
Luminita Nemes was born and raised in Hunedoara, Romania, where she studied law. She currently lives in Brussels, Belgium, and works as a Bid Manager for an international IT company. In her free time, she enjoys travelling and visiting new countries. She is a passionate photographer and loves animals, especially dogs, music, dance, and good comedies like Friends.