Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Final Post

4 years ago we landed in Germany. We really didn't have a clue as to what awaited us or what we should expect. I put my life on pause, expecting to be here for 3 years and then go back to SA, press "play" and continue as we were. 
Emotionally, I had not prepared myself for the change. I knew it'd be different... in a different country and with some home-sickness, but culture shock? I was surprised. I think this blog has shown my experience of the different phases quite perfectly, without me realising it at the time. 
This blog has served me well... it started as a way to share what we were experiencing with friends and family back at home, if they were interested. It became a place where I wrote to hold onto memories. It gave me a space to figure things out, try to put into words what I could otherwise only express in tears. I had something to do with all the thousands of photos I took. This blog lead me into the blogging world, where I started reading the blogs of others who were in similar situations, or women who I could relate to in one way or another. It made those first months so much less lonely. It let people I met here get to know me a little better, gave them a glimpse of who I am when I'm not fumbling through German. 
But, this chapter is ending. My memories are stored on paper these days, where I can write unfiltered, record things that don't need to be shared with the internet. The name just doesn't fit anymore, as my focus is no longer on the fact that we aren't at home - especially since our daughter is now living in her home country. Somehow, this space just doesn't feel like mine anymore. 
So I'll see what I do with it - if I remove some or all of the posts, or if I leave it here, a testimony of the journey we've been on, the prayers that were answered. I'll probably start something new, sometime, but that may take a while. 
For this blog though, this is the last post.
A big THANK YOU to those who joined me in this space... we'll see each other on \facebook, instagram, another blog, or real life :)

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

March - the month we've been waiting for

Oh, March! The month we've been waiting for for the last 9 months! 

The month was basically spent waiting for baby to arrive... and up until her due date I don't really know what we did because my SD card crashed and without photos I can't remember...
She was due on the 12th of March. Only 4% of babies arrive on their due-dates, so we were pretty sure that was the date she wasn't coming. Still, the night before, we went out for dinner together at a restaurant with a view of Marburg's cathedral, and then wandered through the city.

Pregnancy in Germany is really well monitored, and once I reached my due date I had check-ups scheduled for every second day for the next ten days. This meant that, since my due date was on a Sunday and doctors practices are closed, I needed to go to the hospital for a check-up. Everything looked good so afterwards we went for coffee at Spiegelslust Turm since it is so close by, and then walked into the city.

The check-ups were appreciated, but also tedious, especially when the baby would move around and I'd have to constantly squirm the CTG thingy around to keep her heart monitored. When I needed them at the hospital then they were even more tedious because I couldn't make an appointment. I would have to phone and ask if the next hour would be ok, and if not, keep calling until it was quiet enough for me to go in. One Saturday I kept calling labour & delivery, and they kept saying to wait an hour. Since bus connections from home to the hospital are so poor on weekends, we walked around the city and ended up waiting in the chemistry lab and Malcolm could do work to kill time until we could finally go (the chemistry dept is across the road from the hospital). It was a long day and we had a rather late night because the bus connection was so bad.

Once the due-date came & went, I mostly spent my days google-searching induction methods, reading birth stories... scaring myself that something awful had happened, and going for walks. Lots and lots of walks.

I also tried some less tried-and-tested methods of induction. Like baking cookies with pink sprinkles and whispering to my baby how good it is out here. I also baked cupcakes and invited friends over for tea, hoping that by celebrating her birthday she'd take the hint. We played motivating songs (the final countdown, gotta get out of this place, I want to break free...), but nothing worked.

At 10 days over-due I had an appointment for induction. 
I spent the day before the scheduled induction bursting into tears at random moments, until I decided that it just didn't feel right and called the hospital to cancel. They said I should come in anyway for a check-up the next morning. 
So bright and early we were there. They checked on the baby, and she was doing fine. Amniotic fluid was getting lower, but that's to be expected and it wasn't dangerously so. The doctor was obliged by hospital policy to tell me the risks and advise me to begin induction that day. When I said I don't want to (because there was no medical need to, and, to me, the risks of complications due to induction weren't yet worth it), she called another doctor. The next doctor repeated the information - that I was putting our baby's life at risk and that I would be taking a chance that the placenta ruptures and the baby dies. I felt terrible. I was terrified. I felt bullied, sitting on the bed under so much pressure. But a sympathetic midwife and Malcolm both supported me in waiting a couple days. It was so stressful and one of the scariest, most intimidating moments I've experienced. I know that they were doing their jobs and telling me what they needed to, but those days over-due were some of the most stressful and emotionally draining.
We left the hospital, knowing that the next day I would have to go back and hear the same thing again. This time it was some really important doctor who we needed to see in his fancy office - it felt like we'd been sent to the principal's office - who again warned us of the risks, even though we'd made it clear that we were prepared for induction but only the following day.
Feeling like naughty kids, we left the hospital again and went into the city for lunch and a stroll along the river to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Then it was time to go home and pack my bags for the hospital the next day.

On the 24th, a beautiful Spring day, we were up early, excited and nervous to get to the hospital.

 We were prepared for induction to take up to 3 days, plus a 3 night stay in hospital once the baby was there. We prayed that it wouldn't take long, and God certainly answered our prayer! 

Our sweet little Enid Elise was born that evening after 4 hours of labour. 
It was an incredible experience with such a supportive and encouraging midwife and student! I was able to relax and trust them, knowing that they knew what was best for me and Enid, and they had great suggestions and advice. Even when the room became quite full with doctors that needed to be called, it was concerning, but I knew we were in good hands. Malcolm was the very best, holding my hands through every contraction (except one, where he'd gone to get a camera because we'd left everything in a different room) and reassuring me the whole way. 
As we left the delivery ward, Malcolm pushed the button to light up the heart in the hospital and it glowed for an hour for our little one. 

After 2 nights in hospital, we came home with our teeny tiny baby. It felt unreal, but so good to be home. 

Recovery has been quick and having a midwife come daily in that first week was an enormous help! We're also sooo thankful for friends who brought us dinners or just came to see us and share our excitement and tell us how beautiful our baby is.
Enid is the sweetest baby and we're so glad we get to be her parents!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

January & February

We're well into 2017! It's March! 
March holds much excitement - meeting our baby! Our 4 year wedding anniversary! AND mum comes to visit in just a month's time! 
Ok, so even though I'm VERY excited about what's coming, I will calmly recap what's been. So many special moments. 

January started with our trip to the Black Forest. Freudenstadt, Freiburg, Strassbourg, Neuneck... long, snowy walks... evenings with hot chocolate... Time alone and relaxed.

When we got back, it was back to work for both us. Malcolm's work in the lab has gone really well this year, which is excellent news! 
At the end of January, I went on maternity leave. The first weekend of leave I was quite sick with a cold, which I was such a baby about because I felt awful and could take no medication. 
However, the river had frozen over and I didn't want to miss seeing it. So that Sunday we headed into town just to see the river. One wasn't meant to stand on it, but there were a number of people ice-skating and walking on the ice. 

Although I had time off work, I was still in the Cafe and Tuition and Kinderclub and English kids-group. I officially had my last day in Kindeclub towards the end of February, which was sad and a little unreal to end such a long chapter. I also lead the English Kids-group for the last time a week later and will now have a break from that for a while. I used my time off work to fill out lots of paper work and worked on various projects, including the baby-nook

There was also my baby shower, which was SO. MUCH. FUN. 

I tried to surprise Malcolm on Valentine's Day with some cookies... but ended up only able to send him this photo... 

February was also spent using our weekends as much as possible to spend time together. We went to the movies to see Lala Land (thanks to a gift voucher that friends had given us!) and spent time wandering around the city and eating icecream.

I also spent a fair amount of time trying to take everbody's advice and go for walks, despite miserable weather and achy hips. If it's warm enough for the geese to return, it's warm enough for me to go out waddling! 

This last weekend Malcolm and I went for a walk together in the forest in our neighbourhood. It's a lot more fun walking with him than alone, and I'm impressed with his patience and his photography skills, helping to document this unique phase of our lives where we could become parents tomorrow or in a few weeks... 

After wandering around for a while, we sat in a field in the cold and watched the sun go down, a pretty sweet way to end February. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Our (teeny tiny) Baby Nook

I mentioned previously, that we decided to use our tiny "Abstellkammer" or storage room/closet (1.2m x 1.6m) for our baby's things. She'll sleep in our room, but clothes and all other baby-related things belong in their own special place. 
Honestly, it made me a little sad when I thought that we'd have no 'special' place for our child. I mean, Harry Potter grew up in the cupboard under the stairs, but I wasn't convinced. 
However, when I came across the various tiny nurseries and tiny baby nooks, I realised that we have all we need. Many hours were spent sitting on the couch, watching one series or another, with my concentration actually on the tiny room I wanted to transform. 

So this is what we started with: 

Except there was an old, rickety shelf in there that we had borrowed ages ago. I only thought to take a photo after the shelf was returned. Ironing board, iron, clothes drying rack, boxes, hardware stuff, paper recycling, suitcases... so much stuff was stored in there. But, we managed to find new homes for stuff and clear out everything except the suitcases, ironing board and drying rack (which are hidden away. 

The first step was to buy a bookshelf on Amazon (because Ikea's delivery charges...). We also got given a light pink changing pad. I bought sheets and cut them up and sewed them to make changing pad covers (tutorial here) and fitted sheets for the tiny bassinet mattress. 

In the shelf we hung up a rod for tiny clothes to be hung up, 
We searched for tension rods and finally bought one, but after a few days it fell down. It was a Sunday night when we realised we'd need a new solution, so, not wanting to spend more money, we went for a walk to see what people had thrown out and if we couldn't find a broom or rod or pipe of some kind. At the first pile of Sperrmüll, we found PVC pipes, which were just perfect! So Malcolm cut it to size and screwed it in from either side. 

We went to the hardware store and bought a big shelf plank, which they cut to the dimensions we needed, which also made it easier to carry home in the bus ;) 
Malcolm screwed it all together and attached a block to the wall for one end to rest on. 
Friends went to Ikea and kindly bought us stuff - the little grey lamp and the drawer dividers which organise the shelves. 

We ordered these yellow boxes, which fit perfectly, and I love how they brighten up the room and keep nappies and blankets and stuff stashed away. 
I also sewed a curtain to block off the suitcases (which are also used to store more luggage and boxes of baby clothes in the sizes we don't need yet) and bought a white plastic basket to hold small amounts of laundry. 

In the drawer of the white cupboard (which we took out of the kitchen when we first moved in, to make space for a washing machine), there are all sorts of nappy-changing things and samples and bits and pieces. I don't yet know how to organise them, since I'm clueless, but once we see how things work, it'll be better :) 
Socks are also stored here because I can't figure out what size any of them are...
In the bottom part of the cupboard, there are more boxes of clothes and space for boxes of nappies.

After Malcolm fixed a rather large crack running up the wall, 
the final touches were really just decor... 
A friend gave us this moon shaped music-thing (it's called a Spieluhr in German, in English... no idea) which plays the prettiest tune, and another friend made this cute canvas with a giraffe on it. 

Malcolm painted sweet little animals too...

And I wrote out a favourite verse (and forgot punctuation and the scripture reference - Lamentations 3:22-23) 

And of course, since teddy isn't allowed in the bassinet, she's also chilling in the baby-nook, along with the giant baby blanket we crocheted :) 

All in all, I'm really pleased with how our project turned out. 
Time will tell how practical it really is, but I'm so glad that we've been able to make a tiny little spot for our daughter's things. Sure, I don't get to sit in a rocking chair in her nursery, reading her stories in utero, contemplating the future, but that's probably overrated anyway ;)