Monday, March 25, 2013

Bump report

I am days away from being 34 weeks, which also means I'm about six weeks from my due date. Yoowza! Just look at that belly! Things are going well. Overall I really have no room to complain other than the typical third trimester pregnancy gripes. This kid moves like an athlete all the time, which is only mildly terrifying because little r was calm as ever when he was tucked inside my tummy, and he came out movin' and shakin' like no other. We already have our hands full, so I might need to borrow someone's hands when we welcome this little tyke into the world.

My doctor tells me that everything is going really well. Blood pressure is fantastically low, baby is growing right on schedule, and there are no signs of complications. The last several months have been a tad bit distracting emotionally, so it was like Big R and I got hit in the head with the realization that this baby is coming, and he's coming soon. It might be a good idea if we get ready, don't you think? One enormous difference with preparations this go around is that we now have little r that we need to think about. No whisking me off in the middle of the night leaving our sweet little bear behind. And it could be helpful to put a plan in place to make sure he's in good hands while I'm in labor. Just thinkin' that could be a good idea. We're hoping this one doesn't want to come quite so early, so we should have some time to sort things out. Can't hurt to be prepared though because you just never know...

It was also time to get registered at the klinikum (German hospital). Typically they like you to have this taken care of by 36 weeks. I was a little early completing this task only because they wanted to slide me in before the Easter holiday. Things quite literally shut down here for this religiously important holiday, and the Germans are nothing if efficient as we have learned all too well.

Having a baby and all of the prenatal care in Germany hasn't been alarmingly different than what I experienced back home. There are differences though, obviously... Most things are simple and go right along with what you would expect (except that I get an ultrasound with each appointment, and that is pretty darn neat!). The hardest part has been navigating Tricare, which is a beast of a health care program overseas, especially when you are pregnant. Every time I catch myself ranting or complaining about it, I try to calmly remind myself that at least I have health care and it is paying for literally everything. That is a benefit so many Americans don't get to experience, so I need to shut it sometimes. But alas, it's still mildly frustrating.

That aside, the only other interesting caveat to having a baby here in Germany is the language barrier. It's not a huge one being that the doctors here are required to learn English as part of their medical training. That is no easy task, by the way, considering learning a language is difficult enough, but to learn it in medical terms is a special art. My doctor is wonderful. The translation often means there is no sugar coating the communications, and every once in awhile things might be slightly confused, but I really haven't had any trouble with it at all yet.

My favorite lost in translation story though is from last week when I registered at the klinikum. I got the distinct feeling that this registration isn't something they have all of the expectant mothers do here, but that it is instead something they ask the military mom's to do knowing that the paperwork would be much more complicated as things are translated between the two languages. The appointment took quite awhile, and I wasn't entirely certain what all the appointment would entail. I met with the Chief of OB at the klinikum. Tricare takes good care of the doctors here, so they always have us meet with the head of each department (it was the same way when little r had his surgery last fall). The Professor (as they call the "chief") was great. Super charming, funny, and light-hearted about the entire thing. Then he sent me up to the labor floor so I could meet with a midwife to prepare my medical file. The idea being that it would be much easier to take care of that now than it would be if I were in labor. Excellent point.

I was told a midwife would be waiting for me, and she would walk me through the paperwork. Instead, I got to the labor and delivery ward, and the woman behind the desk gave me that "deer in the headlights" look. I mustered together my best German in an attempt to explain why I was there. The best part was, I only marginally knew what I was there for and I had no clue what they called this process. Was it "registration"? Who knows... So, I motioned that I was there to fill out paperwork to make sure I was prepared for childbirth. Sounds about right, don't you think?

After about five minutes of waiting, she calls me back and whisks me away to a labor room. It's a calm and peaceful room with about 30 or more dimly lit lights in the ceiling tiles - so European on so many levels. There was a huge circular spa bathtub in the center of the room that was pink and fantastic. But the best part was, the room was surrounded in true European style with wall to wall mirrors. She laid me on my side on a hospital bed and immediately got me hooked up to equipment to monitor contractions and the baby's heartbeat. While I laid there awaiting the midwife, I couldn't help but think about laboring in this room naked in the gigantic pink spa tub watching myself in the mirrors. Yikes! There must be a calming effect providing purpose to the design of the whole room, I'm just not 100% sure what that effect might be. Can you think of a worse time to be able to see yourself - from every possible angle?!

Anyhow, the midwife comes in and we talk to each other in broken German and English. She gets all of my critical information written down like my name, birthday, and due date. Then she looks at me with these kind eyes and says, "Warum sind Sie da?" Simply translated, that means, "Why are you here?" And it dawned on me that the woman up front thought I was in labor. I was hooked up to monitors because she thought a baby was on its way. Too funny. Instead of unhooking me though, the midwife just continued on her merry way with having me answer her questions to complete my medical file while I was chillin' on my side listening to my baby's heartbeat. I'm not sure if she was embarrassed from the misunderstanding or if it was just plain easier to continue leaving me in that state. Either way, we both got a chuckle out of it. Although her English was really very good, going through the paperwork was a tedious process for both of us as we tried to translate the questions and answers to each other. I'm glad this task will be behind us the next time I am there fully in labor.

In other news, we have nearly completed the baby room. I'll give you those details and pictures in a separate blog post. We decided to go all out and paint even though we are moving this summer, and I'm glad we did even though our painting skills are pathetic to put it mildly.

Sneak peak of the baby room behind my gigantic baby bump!

Little r seems to be super excited for his baby brother to get here. He constantly provides me with comedic fodder about my ever increasing size. He keeps saying his baby brother is going to "pop out" and that my tummy is getting so big! For some reason he's been super interested in sitting on my lap lately, which is mildly amusing considering there is very little room for him to sit there anymore. And our sweet war hero often decides my belly makes a wonderful pillow.

I'm still doing yoga although no where near as often as I'd like. It's taking everything out of me to walk little r to school and to get my wide load up our steep driveway these days. I can, and do, still stand on my head and do other inversions. If I can remember to have someone take my picture, I'll provide that image for your amusement one last time. I won't be doing them anymore until the baby is born. Not because I don't want to or am not able, but more because it's advisable not to at this point in your pregnancy for various reasons. So, I'll be putting my inversions to rest for awhile.

Pregnancy is anything if not amusing, so I'll provide more fun stories when they come my way. For now though, it's time to take a nap before my crazy little bear gets home from kindergarten and turns my world upside down.

love to you all - xoxoxoxo


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On... I've always liked this saying, and I'm not sure that it has ever before been so befitting as a mantra to help me keep my chin up. This catchy phrase was a slogan created by the British at the start of World War II. The slogan was one of several created for posters to be used to boost morale during a particularly trying and scary time for Great Britain. (This particular poster was never actually released to the public during that time though because it was being saved for an impending invasion by Germany (which never occurred). Most of the posters were destroyed but one of them was rediscovered in a book shop over 60 years later, and this reassuring phrase has since gained increasing popularity.)

To say things have been particularly trying and scary for my family this year is truly an understatement. It is merely the middle of March, and yet this has already been an extremely difficult year for me and my family. You've seen me mention in a couple of blog posts that my Dad has been really sick. It has been too emotional for me to talk much about the details. I think when you write things down, they become more real, and I haven't been prepared to accept all that was going on.

On March 4, after two excruciating months in the hospital battling congestive heart failure and a debilitating lung condition called, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS, my Dad lost his life. He had a seemingly mild heart attack just before Christmas that unfortunately went misdiagnosed until serious damage had occurred and he suffered congestive heart failure. My Dad wasn't one to give up easily. He was home a mere four days later working with my sister and my stepmom on a new diet regime and preparing himself for rehab and a serious overhaul of his daily routine. Unfortunately, his heart was not as strong as his spirit for life, and he was back in the hospital in critical condition by New Years. We thought we were going to lose him then. I flew back to the States to be with my family and to say "good-bye" to my Dad. He coded several times, and was essentially on life support just to stay alive. It was painful to watch, but we tried to remain optimistic.

After several procedures and critical operations, my Dad's heart finally stabilized, but his lungs were suffering with ARDS. Every day was a roller coaster ride of emotions for my family. He was in a medically induced coma for 84 days, and each day my stepsister and stepmom woke up at 5:30 a.m. to be with the doctors during rounds and to pray for improvement, and my other sisters were right behind to join them for support. My Dad had regular visitors that stayed with my family all day long at the hospital, made meals, and helped hold things together. I needed to be home here in Germany, and even though I knew that it medically made no difference if I were there, the distance from my family was really difficult. I waited anxiously every day for updates on how things were going.

Instead of improving, my Dad's lungs went from critical to worse. The doctors had a meeting with my family to explain why they had essentially lost hope that Dad could fully recover. It wasn't two weeks later that his body had had enough, and it was time to say good-bye. It still doesn't seem real. I'm not sure any of us are ready to accept that he's gone...

So, Keep Calm and Carry On... that's what I'm trying to do. I know he's with us all in spirit. He had many struggles in his life, as many of us do, but he was in a very happy place when he died. The whole thing seems surreal like a bad dream. I know time will heal, and I also know that the one thing my Dad would never want is for us to stop living. Despite all of this emotional upheavel, things in life have been busy and we have much to look forward to this year.

Emotions might overshadow humor, but let me tell you, do I have some stories to share. Life carries on whether you expect it to or not, and this family has been busy. My growing stomach is a constant reminder that we have much to prepare for. Little r is potty trained and yet he never disappoints having an "accident" in the most fantastic locations at the most opportune times. My trip home for my Dad's funeral was rought with craziness. I'm frantically trying to prepare a presentation for my teaching assessment next week (yikes)! I went on a ladies' weekend escape to Tuscany that I can't wait to tell you all about, and the baby's room is finally looking less like a bike storage space with a crib and rubbermaid bins and more like somewhere that a little boy might actually want to sleep.

It seems life hasn't been kind to a number of my close friends and family this year. We aren't the only ones that have been faced with emotionally trying experiences. I hope we can all hold each other close and help one another through these difficult times. Just remember that you are not alone. I have been reminded of that at every turn.

I'm sending my love to all of you, and Keep Calm and Carry On...xoxoxoxo