Sunday, 26 February 2017

Baby-Shower!

***
I've gone ahead and used photos of German friends and posted them online, which I seldom do because online privacy is taken more seriously here. So THANK YOU, dear German friends, whose names I protect, for your sacrifice that I could share this special evening with family, friends, and strangers.
***

As mentioned in a previous post, baby showers are not typically done in Germany. Instead, after the baby is born, one may receive some gifts. A friend and I organised a baby shower for another friend last year, just for fun, but it didn't really occur to me that they may do the same for me. 
Honestly, I was a little disappointed to be missing out on "my" stork party (as they are called in South Africa), but decided not to let it get me down - different country, different experience, different things to enjoy! 

So, when a friend came over for coffee one morning and nonchalantly mentioned that her husband had invited Malcolm over that evening to play chess, and that she was baby-sitting for a mutual friend that evening, and asked if I wanted to tag along, I thought nothing of it. The thought of being home alone on a Friday night sounded somewhat appealing, but also a bit boring. We could hang out together and watch movies (okay realistically we would probably spend the evening playing memory or eye-spy) and relax together. Malcolm said I should go have fun. I was still unsure. 
I went to KinderClub, and after it ended, realised that I had a message asking if I was going  to join her - our friend would leave us dinner and wanted to know if it would be for one or two of us. I decided I'd just do it, and said I'd be there, but since I was replying so late, it wasn't a problem if there was no dinner for me. 

So I headed into the city to meet my friend at the bus-stop where we had arranged to meet. Now when I think back on it, it was strange how she was suddenly walking up ahead of me - clearly having come out of the side-street where the house was where we'd be babysitting. 
We met up and walked the short way to our friend's house. A second clue that something was up, in hind-sight, was that when we rung the bell, my friend said her name and then hurriedly added "with Erica!"
We headed up the stairs, chatting. As we rounded the bend in the stairs, I suddenly heard footsteps - perfectly normal when 3 children stampede to come and say hello - but realised that there were way too many and way too loud to be children, as a group shouted "welcome to your baby shower!!!" 
I was stunned. There were suddenly all these friends and I was so confused and shocked and surprised and didn't quite know what to do with myself or who to say hello to first! 

As I came in, I was how much preparation had been put into the evening - the dining room was all decorated with pink and purple and laid out with food, and a small group of friends from our international group and our neighbourhood were there to celebrate the coming arrival of our daughter :) 


The evening started somewhat amusingly and somewhat tragically when the tray of pretty champagne glasses with soda water and pink juice tipped over... it would have been funny to send a photo of everybody with paper towels mopping up this pink-red fluid and send it to Malcolm, let hom draw his own conclusion, and give him a surprise too ;)


After dinner, it was time to play some games. We started off trying to guess whose baby photo is who... 


That's me! 

And then there was a quiz about me. Afterwards we had a baby-making competition, where everybody made a baby out of play-dough and I had to rank them. There were some really cute ones! And weird ones! 





Then we played a game to see who could produce the heaviest nappy without the water spilling out. I think the winner's nappy was about 800gr or so! We ate cupcakes and drank coffee, while everybody filled in a sheet guessing the weight and length of our baby, what time she'd be born and a few other details. I guess time will tell who wins that game! It was then time to play a last game - I needed to teach everybody a position or pose from ballet and then give them marks. The over-all winner was crowned princess and presented with long, blond hair and a crown, and had the honour of taking a photo with me ;)


With the games all over, my friends gathered around me and prayed for me, our family,  the baby, the birth... it was so special and so meaningful and I felt so overwhelmed that I have friends who would do this for me. Who would go to the effort of planning and preparing something as frivolous as a stork party for me, just because they love me. It absolutely was just more confirmation that having our baby here in Marburg, with friends to support and love us, was a good decision. 

The night ended with some silly photos, and being presented with a nappy-castle. Tucked away in the nappies was money - we used some of it to buy our baby's first teddy bear and an outfit to bring her home in, and rest is stashed away for a rainy day. 



I don't think my friends believe me when I say I was surprised - to them their plan was really transparent - but I still can't believe how gullible and easily caught I was! I'm very impressed with you two. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Pregnant! Trimester #3

The final trimester suddenly arrived, along with the aches and pains that articles warned me about. But it's been the most exciting trimester, getting things ready for our little one to join us on this side of my womb! 

6 weeks before my due-date, I had my last day of work as mutterschutz kicked in and maternity leave started. This gives me a lot more time, though I firmly believe that it's a fair amount of time to give a distracted and confused mother-to-be to fill in all the paper-work in preparation. 

I was hoping I'd have a stronger nesting instinct and that our place would be sparkling. But it comes in waves every now and then and I did suddenly wash the windows one day, and getting a new vacuum cleaner sent me on a dust-busting rampage. But mostly it's been the shopping, creating and organising kind of nesting. 
We finally finished the baby-nook, I did some sewing projects, we bought our daughter a teddy bear (after much hunting), and I organised and washed baby clothes 
(friends have been SO. GENEROUS. When it comes to baby clothes, I think I've bought 4 onesies, 4 pyjamas, and a dress... everything else has been given to us. See how nicely God is already looking after and providing for our little one? Oh AND, maternity clothes: I have bought one pair of pants and a coat, off ebay, the rest is clothes that I've either been given or lent by friends. How amazing are my friends?!)







I was also suuuuper surprised by friends organising a baby shower for me. Baby showers do not typically happen in Germany, so I was completely surprised and felt just so spoiled - though the first hour I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself as I was still in shock ;) But that deserves a blog post of it's own! (coming soon...) :)

As things are nearly ready for our daughter, we've also been putting lots of though into what she should be called. We managed to narrow our list down to 3 names (and decided that we'll have to have at least 3 daughters because we love all 3 names so much...) so I met with a friend for a top-secret-name-discussion to discuss our top 3 choices from a German perspective. Talking to her gave me a lot of reassurance, and gave us some things to consider.
We're still undecided. 

I've also been trying to soak up these last weeks of being pregnant. I've been so fortunate with no heart burn, muscle cramps, other common symptoms... let's hope it stays like that! Towards the end of the second trimester and start of the third I had really bad hip pain. I ran to catch a bus one day, and felt like a cripple the next day. Most exercise left my hips aching that I would wake up at night from the pain of moving my legs. That has meant that I haven't been nearly as active as I had hoped, but with moderate amounts of activity it hasn't been an issue in a long time. I've had some pretty bad upper-back pain, but that's actually got a LOT better in the last month. Now it's my lower back that hurts if I walk a lot, and my stomach gets sore if I'm really active, but this is really only if it's a lot. In the Black Forest on holiday I'd often feel quite sore in the evenings after walking a lot, but since getting back to Marburg I've taken it a bit easier (well, except the two weeks where the bus-drivers were striking...). 


Part of soaking up these last weeks has been taking lots of photos, or trying to. Unfortunatly, with my stomach only getting big in Winter, most photos are of me in the same coat over and over again... gets a little boring! But, I've tried to get some in normal clothes, and being pregnant in Winter has also meant it's been very comfortable and cosy :) 






Throughout the pregnancy we've taken photos of my growing tummy (and butt...) every 2 weeks - it's so crazy to see my body change so profoundly, and I look forward to seeing the entire series at the end! 


So how is our little one doing? According to the pregnancy app that I use, she's now the size of a striped skunk. (Malcolm and I have learnt a lot about various animals that our baby has been the size of - Sunday morning ritual is to see what animal she's the size of an then watch a documentary or youtube clip about the animal...)
The doctor compliments our baby all the time, for being the right size and having a nice heart beat and good bones. It makes me feel like quite a proud mom already! The last few ultrasounds have indicated a fair amount of hair, so we're excited to see how much it really is. She's too cramped now to make too much out on ultrasounds now and she often hides her face and the doctor often has had to search for a while to get a profile view of her face. She wiggles around a lot, and I love watching my stomach bulge and wave where she moves.

With just a few more weeks to go, we are SO. EXCITED. to meet her.

Although I'll miss my stomach-table a little bit - it has its convenient moments.


Friday, 24 February 2017

Pregnant! Trimester #2

I entered the second trimester just before my birthday, and we finally felt okay about telling some close friends. It was kind of cool having this secret that only we knew about, but was fun getting to tell them and see their reactions.

I also told my boss at work (So from then on they couldn't fire me, and I wasn't allowed to work over time or in the cold etc. etc... Germany looks after its pregnant women!). He then needed to tell his secretary for book-keeping and insurance purposes. And because they'd been considering moving me to assistant of a different section, the heads of those needed to know too, so that I could switch sooner.
It felt like everybody in the office knew, but I managed to keep it under wraps until early October, when I then sent a group email. The responses I got were so positive and sweet, and it was amazing finally getting to share this exciting phase. Other groups of friends were then also let in on the secret, and eventually, by the beginning of November, all of Facebook and Instagram knew it too.


At ballet, I also needed to give notice but kept my reasons vague. I couldn't picture myself dancing all the way to December, so I needed to stop at the end of September already. My teacher suspected my reason was because I was pregnant, and in September I could then finally tell her, and then have my last few lessons, wondering if I was having my first mommy-and-me-classes with her in my tummy.



Having a baby on a budget meant I started searching classifieds for baby things we'd need. There were lots of good deals, and starting early meant we got many things at bargain prices. Not just cute clothes, but also things like our bassinet!





It was also time to figure out where to put the little one when she'd arrive. We have an apartment with our room and a living room. Our room is tiny but has enough space for the bassinet. The large living room could accommodate baby stuff, but we didn't want to rearrange everything and have baby things all over. So. Our storage room, 1.2m x 1.6m, was the solution - we just needed to find a new home for everything that was stored there. So we started sorting and organising and spending a lot of time searching "tiny nursery" (and scoffing at what people think "tiny" is) and "baby nooks" on pinterest, and making trips to the hardware shop and ordering things on amazon. I'll soon do an update on how this little nook has turned out!



There were also other practical things to sort out and figure out and research. I received my "mutterpass" at around 12 weeks - a wonderful German invention - a booklet that all my medical details and those of the baby are recorded in, which I need to keep with me at all times. I had all my doctors appointments until the end of the pregnancy scheduled. We looked into midwives - midwives deliver babies here, not doctors. And one usually employs one to visit at home for the days and weeks following the birth. They're quite in demand so finding one with time is a challenge when you leave it as late as I did. And since we're privately insured and our insurance doesn't pay for it, it made things a little more complicated. We visited hospitals (perhaps this was third trimester already?), to decide where we should go to meet our baby.
We researched birth-preparation classes - our insurance wouldn't pay for these classes either, and I started looking for one much too late so they were mostly full. I found one with ONE spot open, but it was really expensive. We prayed about it, and I sent one more email to a midwife I thought might run classes. She responded and said she doesn't have a course running, but she can do it for us at home, for free. How cool is our God?! The sessions (which started then in the third trimester) have been short and to the point and such a blessing in helping us feel a little more ready for parenthood!

Google was sometimes very helpful in all this admin and searching. And sometimes it was ridiculous.



Mid-November we had an ultrasound and discovered we were having a baby girl. I had thought, up until then, that it was a boy, and was very surprised that it was a girl. It took some getting used to! I had never planned a 'gender reveal' of any kind, but suddenly it seemed like such a big deal that it seemed a pity to just blurt it out. So cookies with pink sprinkles were baked and distributed!



And how was baby doing? Just fine :) It was such a joy, getting to see her every 4 weeks, and I loved it when Malcolm was able to come with me to appointments. She was cute and would wave or suck her thumb or carry on playing with her toes. We were constantly assured that she's normal and healthy and doing well. Thank you, Jesus! I started feeling tiny movements at about 17 weeks, and a couple weeks later Malcolm could feel them too and they were visible from the outside.



And how was I doing? Also just fine! My stomach started looking less like I'd eaten too much, and more like I was pregnant. I was feeling great and had virtually no symptoms. The second trimester really was as good as "they" say.
If anything, especially at the beginning of the trimester, it was my emotions that were hard to control, and I was often sad for no reason, not interested in social contact, and wishing days away. It was sometimes difficult to accept my body changing, feeling unlike myself and out of control of both my emotions and body. Malcolm was (is) the best - kind and patient and understanding.
By the end of the trimester, with the reality of our baby setting in, things did get better, and I the excitement and anticipation soon outweighed the uncertainty, and the good days outweighed the bad.



Thursday, 23 February 2017

Pregnant! Trimester #1

When we left South Africa about 3.5 years ago, "for 3 years", I didn't picture us having our children here. But, time passed and broodiness set in, and children are good, and we realised we don't know where we'll be in 6 months, or a year, or two years, or three years. So. Let's trust God in this. Let's have a baby!

Despite not anticipating having children here in Germany, I did always kind of suspect that if I were pregnant, I'd document it a whole lot better here on our blog than I have. But I didn't. which leaves me now feeling like I have an awful lot to catch up on because
- our contact to family and friends and time to tell them things is fairly limited and there's so much we don't get to say, and
- even entries to my real-life-secret-diary are sporadic and filled mostly with prayers and anxiety and rants and not too much about what's been going on in the last 9 months in my tummy and my life. And I want to remember stuff.

So here goes.

Malcolm was in China and I strongly suspected I was pregnant while running around Marburg with Anabel, with no appetite and a strange feeling that I can't really describe. When Malcolm returned I eagerly met him at the bus stop, so badly wanting to hear about his adventure but also really wanting to know if my instinct was correct.
(I was so relieved that he made it home safely, having all sorts of nightmares about his plane crashing and never knowing he was going to be a dad... I'm dramatic, I guess.) 
After some tea together and hearing a bit about his trip, I finally told him what was really occupying my thoughts, and took a test - positive! Another one? Positive! It was unreal. And scary. And super cool. I tried taking a photo of the tests but my hands were shaking too badly. I was so excited, but also had moments where I thought "what have we done?!?" and felt terribly irresponsible. But God provides for us, and almost as reassurance and confirmation of this, we received the news the next day that Malcolm's scholarship had been extended until the end of March.
And then Malcolm told me all about China, so we had two exciting things to talk about :)


I called the doctor's office the next day to find out when they'd want to see me, expecting it to only be in a few weeks. It was weird, telling the receptionist that I'm pregnant - the first person to know besides the two of us. It was suddenly so real again and as soon as I hung up I burst into tears. 
I had an appointment scheduled for that week, and set about google-searching about what I should expect at a first appointment, and learning my first bits of pregnancy-vocab from various online forums. 
There wasn't much to see, but it was good to know everything was okay and that the little tests I'd ordered on Amazon were correct. Malcolm met me afterwards to buy me ice cream for being so brave and giving blood. (If only I still got ice cream every time I gave a vial...) 


The first trimester started with the Kinderferienwoche. I wasn't sure I'd be up to it, waiting for morning sickness to kick in any second. But, it didn't! I was suuuuper tired and felt a little queasy now and then, but nothing pretzels couldn't fix... It was a good week with the kids! 
The cat was almost out the bag at the end of the week when I met to hang out with a friend and she proudly produced a bottle of wine and looked so delighted by it. I panicked. "Oh, I can't drink that". "why not?" "ummm, I can't tell you right now"... (translated)
Subtle. Pregnant ladies, as soon as you see that positive, if you plan on keeping the news to yourself, practice turning down alcohol like a normal person. Fortunately, she changed the subject and didn't mention it again. 

The rest of the first trimester saw me sleeping a lot, experiencing weird aversions (pasta? gross! Cooked veggies? Ewww!), and enjoying bread, crackers, orange juice, and sparkling water. 
I was often anxious and worried if things were okay. My emotions weren't all together crazy, but I often got upset over silly things. One morning, I walked into the bedroom to see Malcolm had just made our bed, causing me to burst into tears because I had hoped to crawl back in and sleep. There'd be days where I felt absolutely fine and would immediately worry. There'd be days where I felt awful and miserable and would have a nap as soon as Malcolm left to the lab in the morning. I'm so grateful that it was during the Summer break and I had most mornings for myself. All in all, though, I know I had it easy - my nausea wasn't nearly as bad as many other women experience, and I had as good as no other symptoms. 

The first trimester was also exciting as every week something new is happening and the baby develops one cool feature or another, and imagining how small she was, was unreal. Each ultrasound was different and she grew each time and looked a little sweeter each time. Malcolm came with to most appointments, and it was special getting to see her little heart beat flicker on the screen. We got a fetal doppler and were then also able to hear her heart racing at home, reminding us that she was there even when there was so little other evidence. 

We also told our parents somewhere around 9 weeks, I think. It was fun getting to share the news with them, even though it was over Skype. 

We also set about starting our "great crochet project", a baby blanket (which turned out a lot bigger than we anticipated!). It was nice to work on something together and chat, and watch the blanket grow as we imagined the baby growing inside me.  

Monday, 13 February 2017

Bartletts in the Black Forest: part 2

Our holiday continued with a trip to Strassbourg. It was 3 Kings day so I was looking forward to some real French Galettes des rois, and it was the last day that the Christmas tree would still be standing. It was a beautiful sunny day, but so cold. SO. COLD. 


















We were only in the city for a few hours, but with it being SO. COLD. I didn't mind too much. We saw the main attractions, appreciated the prettiness, bought a Galette des rois to take home, warmed up in a coffee shop, and then headed back to the station.
We arrived at the station with time to spare before the train we wanted to take would depart, buuuut, we couldn't figure out where to buy a ticket. We needed a ticket for only a 15 minute stretch before our other ticket would take us further, but it was such a hassle. We tried several machines, and asked somebody to help us. With just a couple minutes before departure, we still didn't have a ticket so we slowed down our frantic search and went to the travel office. Turns out, the ONLY way to buy a ticket for the train we needed, was to take a number at the office, wait about 15 minutes to get called to a counter, and buy one there. Come on France, you can do better!
So we finally got a train back to Freudenstadt but were very delayed, causing us to miss the last bus to our apartment and resulting in us needing to pay for a taxi. Fortunately, when we got back, we had a galette des rois and tea to defrost us. And Malcolm got to be King for the day, since he found the little figurine.



The next day, the weather was good so we decided to go for a walk to Freudenstadt. It was only about 3kms or so, and the path was really snowy and pretty. 

\



We saw a sign to a tower, and decided it might be worth looking at. I searched google images and it did look pretty, so we detoured up the hill and to Friedrichsturm.


After a rather steep ascent up the hill, we finally made it to the tower. It was a little disappointing, since it wasn't at all that big and seemed dwarfed by the trees around it, but it was very pretty! And, not too far away, there was a decent view over the city.


Our aim was to find a teddy bear for our baby, but we were unsuccessful, so after wandering around the city a little, we found a cafe at the market place to warm up and have lunch at. Then, back to our apartment for cosy hot chocolate and board games and TV. 


It was suddenly our last day in the Black Forest, a Sunday, and there wasn't too much to do. And, honestly, it was nice just to hang out and head out for a walk with no goal. We soon discovered a bus stop very close by, with a cleared road leading to it - we were so glad because lugging our bags to the other bus stop the next day didn't seem too appealing, and now we wouldn't have to! We continued our walk through the forest, aimlessly wandering and enjoying the snow. We attempted a snow ball fight, but my stomach made it tricky to bend down and pick up snow, so Malcolm lovingly made me snow balls so it'd be more fair ;)





The next day was departure-day, and we sadly said goodbye to our little spot in the Black Forest. It was such a wonderful holiday, and just what we needed before the craziness of 2017 started.