Sunday, December 24, 2017

Three things - the Christmas version

I got the idea for this post from Bev who in turn got it from other bloggers.

  1. Spending time with family
  2. People in a good mood
  3. Christmas music

  1. How packed the shops are
  2. The pressure for everything to be perfect
  3. Consumerism

  1. Love Actually
  2. Miracle on 34th Street
  3. Die Hard (haha!)
  1. Mince pies with custard
  2. Chocolates
  3. Christmas cake
  1. Visiting friends during the holidays
  2. Eating the yummy Christmas dinner then relaxing watching movies with your family or playing games
  3. Going to the Christmas markets in Germany for Glüwein (mulled wine)

  1. Driving home for Christmas.
  2. Rocking around the Christmas tree
  3. Happy Christmas (war is over)
  1. Flights to Ireland
  2. A painting of our house
  3. Cute and comfy pyjamas

  1. Peace
  2. An end to poverty
  3. Good Health

Saturday, December 23, 2017

week 29 - birth preperation course #pregnancyDiary

This week we had the birth course morning where the partners were also invited. It took place on a Sunday and there was heavy snow that day! This time the course instructor didn't try to sell us anything which was good. At the start the men had to introduce themselves and say a bit about what they are hoping to achieve from the course. It was clear most didn't have any idea what to expect. A few said things like Ich lasse mich überraschen. Which is like, "I'm ready to be surprised".

Anyway this time the main focus was the birth which was useful. For first time mothers the instructor suggests you labour around 2-3 hours at home before going to the hospital. For second timers it's better to only wait around 1 hour. This rule doesn't apply if you have any bleeding or your water breaks. And if there is any green in the water then it is a sign the baby is in distress and you should get an ambulance and get to hospital asap. There can be a little spotting a few days before the birth starts apparently which is a sign that you shouldn't venture too far away from home at that stage such as not taking any big trips as the labour could be imminent. She was pretty against epidurals especially ones that you have for a long time as it can cause the baby to sleep and things might stall and then you could end up needing a c-section. The rate of c-sections at the hospitals here are around 20-25% percent. She said that usually c-sections are only suggested if there is risk to the baby or the mother's lives and then they are very important. Though apparently some women in Germany choose elective ones.

The course was particularly useful for the men I found though. It was good for them to hear about how to support their wives during labour. For instance not to keep asking questions but to just be helpful! And instead of saying for instance "you're not doing the breathing right", he should start doing the breathing himself and she will copy. We all practiced the breathing exercises and were given a printout of various positions for the different birth stages. I liked how there was a lot of focus on the women and how the men should be involved and active during the labour. They aren't just taxi drivers bringing their partners to the hospital she pointed out! Hearing about some things that can potentially go wrong during the birth (baby doesn't turn etc) was a bit scary but in general I am still feeling overall positive about the birth. The teacher explained a little about hypnobirth theories and how you have to breath and accept the contractions and not fight against them.

I am a member of two facebook groups for other February Mums to be. One is for Irish women (mainly living in Ireland) and the other is for women who did IVF and infertility treatments beforehand. I've definitely noticed the ladies in the latter group are especially appreciative of their pregnancies. There was a post the other day about how we just can't believe sometimes that this is happening and how grateful and lucky we feel. The other evening I was just relaxing watching tv and suddenly it hit me again that I am, please God, going to get my own baby to keep! I won't have to give her back! It was just a lovely feeling.

This week was also the third birth preparation class - an evening with just the women. I found it really informative and useful. The course covered a lot about bonding with the baby after birth and breastfeeding. The people in the class are also mixing more now too I've noticed. I suggested we set up a whatsapp group so we could meet up some time and the idea was well received. It would be a good way for me to keep up my German language skills while I'm on my parental leave.

In Germany the period after birth is known as Wochenbett (lying in/confinement). For the first six to eight weeks the mothers are encouraged to stay in bed and just focus on breastfeeding, resting and bonding with the baby while everyone else brings food and looks after them. That sounds nice! I normally get bored of lying in bed for ages though so provided I'm feeling ok I think I would try to get out for walks now and then if I can. I'll play it by ear though. Staying at home and having that time to bond with the baby also sounds lovely.

To be honest I still worry and get anxious sometimes. I read a really sad story recently about an Irish woman who had a stillborn baby at 35 weeks. And on facebook a group called "stillborn angels" popped up on the suggested groups for me! I had to keep reminding myself it was just because of some stupid programming algorithm and not a bad sign or omen. I've even looked up where Germany stands in terms of stillbirth compared to other countries. It's about 2.4 births per 1000 which is a fairly low number (though ideally there would be none at all of course). However it happened to one of my best friends in Ireland so I definitely am aware that is is more common than you might think. It's just devastating for anyone to go through. I am trying to calm myself by reminding myself that the majority of babies do arrive safely. It will be a relief though once our baby is here and everything is ok. My friends have told me that being a parent means a lot of extra worry that never really ends!

Still though, apart from occasionally being anxious about things like that, in general I am feeling good and positive. I hope everyone reading this has a lovely Christmas period and "ein guten Rutsch", a good slide into the New Year, as the Germans would say!

Friday, December 15, 2017

week 28 - welcome third trimester #pregnancyDiary

I've another doctor checkup this week. Baby's movements have felt stronger in general. This morning I put my hand on my belly and felt like a ripple underneath like she was moving from one side to the other! According to my pregnancy apps, my doctor appointments should start increasing to every two weeks when it gets closer to the end. I would say that I've been starting to feel a bit heavier and more tired in general. I also find it hard walking as far and tend to get out of breath easier. That said I'm still feeling good in general and enjoying this time.

We are going to order some new furniture for the baby room which should arrive during the Christmas holidays when we are both off. I'm really excited to get organizing the room and sort through all the clothes. Once I know exactly what we have I can see what's left for us to buy. Two of my friends are throwing me a baby shower in January/February. It will be so nice to finally get to have my own baby shower after attending so many and wondering if it would ever be my turn. I think some of the games can be a bit silly but it will be nice to get together with friends and feel the support. I'm going to invite my German mother in law too as I think she would love to be included. She really enjoyed seeing the 3d ultrasound pics from our hospital visit last week. She told me she can't stop looking at them. She's going to be such a sweet Oma (German Granny).

This is a "before" pic of the baby room now. As you can see it's pretty messy! Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be able to post a new pic once the new furniture has arrived and I've sorted through the stuff. We'll probably move that book shelf somewhere, and also change the leopard print duvet cover haha!

Several people have commented that my pregnancy is going very quickly for them. It's been going fairly quickly for me too actually. Well the first trimester was slow because I was just living from appointment to appointment and nervous but the second trimester has gone fast! And now I'm already in the final stretch.

Friends of us who have IVF twins gave us several boxes of nappies they never used plus various sized baby clothes, some which they had also gotten passed on to them by friends. At this stage our child probably has enough to wear and I don't even need to buy anything else for the first few months! I think it's so nice that friends seem to pass around baby clothes as from what I hear you don't get that much use of of them since kids grow so fast and saves you having to buy too much new. They even gave us two of several items, as they had bought one for each of their daughters!

You might remember I briefly mentioned having a friend who's due about two weeks after me. She's had a very stressful time lately. She caught something called the CMV virus. Many women are already immune to it but around 1% of women who aren't can catch it during pregnancy and then it could potentially cause problems with the baby such as hearing issues (in around 20% of cases)! My friend had to get lots of tests done and it was a very worrying time as you can imagine.

Luckily they were able to determine that the baby was only exposed to it after week 20 and by that stage would have much better odds of having a stronger immune system and being able to fight it. All the scans have looked great. However her baby will need to get a bunch of tests done after birth to check he wasn't affected. I'm not immune to CMV and both our doctors said it would be better for us not to meet up for the remainder of my pregnancy just in case as it's better to avoid taking any risks. It's disappointing as I would have liked to have kept seeing her! But better to be on the safe side. Once are babies are here we'll be able to meet again and in the meantime we've been keeping in touch with whatsapp. I'm also hoping to pass on some of the extra more gender neutral baby stuff to her.

After 28 week check up at doctor

Everything went well at my appointment. On top of measuring any contractions they also monitored the baby's heartbeat this time. I was attached to the machine for about 40 minutes altogether. It took the nurse several minutes to locate the heartbeat at the beginning. I was trying not to worry as I'd already felt plenty of movement that day but it was a little scary all the same. My husband was able to make the appointment this time which was nice. The big news is that the baby is already in position! At the hospital almost two weeks ago she was lying vertically but now her head is down. To me that doesn't seem very comfortable but from what I read because they are surrounded in water it's fine for babies in the womb! There's a good chance she will stay in this position until the birth so it's unlikely I'll be breech which is also great.

I hope everyone is keeping well and enjoying the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

week 27 - last week of second trimester #pregnancyDiary

According to my app I am already in the third trimester this week. However other websites often count the beginning of the seventh month from week 28. Either way I am grateful for each day my baby keeps growing! I know a few stories of children being born preterm and it can potentially cause health issues. I've been enjoying feeling our little lady kick and move. She's particularly active at night, sometimes even keeping me awake, haha! The other evening we were watching tv and I could see an indent on my left hand side as if a foot or elbow was pressed against it and it felt hard to touch for a few seconds until it went back in again. Another two weeks until my next doctor's appointment which should hopefully include a scan! I am starting to feel a lot heavier in general and it's very nice to put my feet up at the end of the day.

Written later in the week
Well I ended up having another scare this week! To close the second trimester with a bang. I left work one evening and started having these really painful cramps on my way into town for a pregnancy massage appointment. It felt like bad period cramps but a bit higher up. At first I thought the pain was continuous, it was certainly very unpleasant but then I realized that the cramps would get worse every so often and then ease off. Sort of like I would imagine contractions to be like! There didn't seem to be much of a break in between and I started getting really anxious wondering what I should do. I called my husband and he thought I should cancel the massage and go to the hospital to get checked out (at that stage my doctor's practice was closed).

When I got to the massage appointment the pain was still there - it had been almost an hour. The masseuse who's like a holistic therapist said that it wouldn't be good to do the massage with me like this and suggested we postpone which I was glad about. So then I made my way to the hospital. Tt wasn't that far off since I was already in town. However my sense of direction has never been my strong suit and I ended up getting lost finding my way there! I tried using google maps with my GPS but it seemed like I kept walking the wrong direction. Anyway I found my way to the hospital eventually but then got lost again looking for the women and children's clinic. At that stage my husband wasn't too far away so I decided to wait for him and go in together. He also brought my "Mutterpass" with me which is the booklet they give you here when you are pregnant with all your relevant info. By the time I had reached the hospital the cramps had stopped and I felt fine again. So then at first I wondered if I was overreacting going there but then my overactive imagination started worrying that maybe the pains were a sign that the baby was in distress or choking on the umbilical cord and I started feeling really nervous!

We were sent straight to the labour ward to get checked out. The staff there were lovely. I was hooked up to a machine to measure contractions and mine and baby's heartbeat for around half an hour. Hearing the little heartbeat was reassuring. My temperature and blood pressure were also taken. We were also asked lots of questions about our medical history. It's good they have my info on file now. If you go into labour before week 36 you have to automatically go to that particular hospital. If it's later then you have a choice of other hospitals to give birth in. Next we had to wait for a doctor to analyze the results.

Eventually we were called in and I was told I'd get an ultrasound. There were two women in the room who I thought were doctors but I think now that one was probably the ultrasound technician and they must have been still in training. They asked me a series of questions and then started the scan. It was reassuring to see the baby on the screen. The ultrasound technician spent a long time looking at the baby's stomach and then she commented to the other girl in front of me (they were both quite young) that it looked like the heart and stomach were in the wrong place!! Like on the wrong side. Jeez! That's not what you want to hear. So then the other girl phoned another doctor to come down to take a look. Of course I was thinking oh my God, something is wrong with the baby at this stage and praying all would be ok! The girl then told me it's nothing serious, not to worry but of course I was anxious. She'd asked if we had had some kind of thorough scan already and I said the ones that are done at 12 and 20 weeks at the gyno. That didn't seem to be the one she meant though.

Anyway the other more experienced doctor came down and he was very friendly. He did a really thorough scan and it was clear then that he was also teaching the other girl. Like, here is the heart, here is the stomach, all perfectly normal etc. Thank God! He was really nice too, cracking jokes and just putting me at ease. We saw the baby yawn and taste the amniotic fluid! But the real highlight was when he used the 3d scanner and we got to see our baby's face. That was just incredible. She looks like a little person! It's so different from just seeing the black and white 2d images. She even had a little grin in one of the pictures.

We didn't get home until about 10.30pm that evening and we were exhausted by that stage but so relieved and delighted that all is fine and that baby is doing great. The doctors think it must have been practice contractions I had. My cervix is still closed so all is fine. I feel like a bit of a wimp though because I found those contractions really painful! I am hoping to have a natural birth without an epidural, you see. However it was probably extra uncomfortable going through the pain while sitting on the tram on my way into town. If I'd been able to get into a more comfortable position or have a bath for instance it might have been more bearable!

I only had a small snack before going to bed that night but then woke up feeling ravenous. I thought it was the morning already but when I looked at my phone it was around 2.30 in the morning! Ignoring the hunger wasn't working so I got up and made myself a quick bowl of porridge. Poor hubby got worried when he noticed I'd left the room but I told him everything was fine, I just had to feed the baby! I'll have to try to make sure I eat enough in the evenings before bed. Getting up in the middle of the night didn't bother me at all as I was still feeling so relieved that everything is fine with our little one. The next day I was extra tired in work though! So sort of a dramatic week but thankfully things progressing as they should. Hopefully the next few weeks will be calmer!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Weeks 25 - 26 first birth preparation class and a trip to Dublin #pregnancyDiary

Week 25

Not much to report really for this week.
  • The weather has been pretty miserable here. Dark, cold and rainy. Feels like winter already
  • Work has still been crazy busy
  • A lot of my healthy eating habits have gone out the window lately. Hoping to get back on track soon

This week was my first birth preparation class, called Geburtsvorbereitungskurs here. In Germany your health insurance covers the course and you just have to pay the fee for your partner. All the classes at the hospital were already booked out when I looked into signing up at 16 weeks but I managed to find a course locally held by the Chinese lady I did acupuncture with before. Even though my experience hadn't been great and I don't think acupuncture is for me I've heard her classes are good and she had a place available. The course she offers has two evenings with just the women and then two weekend mornings with partners. I had heard that the birth preparation classes can be a good way to make friends so I was hoping that might be the case.

The instructions were to dress comfortably so I wore black maternity tracksuit bottoms which sort of passed for work trousers (I think!) with a long top. There were about ten of us in the class and we sat in a circle on mats on the floor with cushions for our backs. It felt a bit strange for me to be part of this pregnancy club now after all the years we had been struggling with infertility. We had to go around and introduce ourselves. Three of the women are on their second or third babies but the majority of us are pregnant with our first child. I wondered about whether anyone else there might be having an IVF baby too, or have had difficulty but no one mentioned it and I didn't either. Maybe at a later point if the opportunity arises.

The due dates range from December to March. We learnt about what happens to your body during the nine months and birth, discussed pregnancy symptoms, the hospitals in our town in terms of advantages and disadvantages then general newborn care and breastfeeding. Some stuff was interesting but other things I knew already. The end of the class was spent trying to sell us things which I didn't like though! The Hebamme who gives the classes clearly has some sort of agreement with another lady who sells baby stuff and she came over to show us the things. I already have plenty of baby clothes and blankets so didn't really like having to spend 40 minutes looking at more stuff. The things seemed expensive too. Like 50€ for a snow suit or 37€ for a babygrow. At that stage I was tired and hungry as I'd gone to the class straight after work.

Anyway, the other girls in the course seem nice but everyone was a little shy and no one was exchanging numbers or suggesting meet ups. Hopefully at a later stage we could set up a whatsapp group or something. It would be nice to have some people to meet up with once the baby comes and to keep my German up while I'm out of the office! One of my other pals here who's american commented that she has a group of friends with babies around the same age as hers and they often go for play dates together. She mentioned that she feels more integrated living here now she has German friends.

I've also started having braxton hicks or practice contractions I think! I noticed an uncomfortable feeling around my pelvis area and cramps for the first 20 minutes of the birth course and then the next day in the late morning. I did start to worry a little about pre term labour but the pains weren't so bad and after asking some other women in my facebook group, apparently if it were real contractions I wouldn't be able to talk or do anything else during them! Off to Ireland tomorrow.

Week 26

Overall I had a nice trip to Dublin. I got a chance to meet most people again and now I'm ready to stay put in Germany to prepare for the baby as I get into the third trimester. There were some lovely moments catching up with friends and everyone has been so supportive and happy for us which has been really lovely. My aunt commented that we shouldn't buy too many pink things in case the doctors get it wrong and we end up having a boy! My doctor did say he is 100% sure of the sex so I think it should be fine. I agree with the sentiment that baby girls shouldn't just be put into pink clothes and I do plan to buy a mixture of colours. However I'm a feminist who also likes wearing pink so I don't think there is anything wrong with it personally! I guess I would avoid slogans that just say things like "princess" though. It was strange saying goodbye to people thinking the next time I will see them I will have a young baby with me, please God! We plan to fly over to Ireland next Summer.

Something really awful and unexpected happened while I was in Ireland though. The younger sister of a good friend of mine died unexpectedly. The poor family are devastated and it is just a nightmare. Depression is an awful illness that takes far too many young lives. I was glad that I was home and was able to visit my friend. My heart aches for her and her family. I clearly remember almost 13 years ago when my Mum died and what a horrible time it was. This has actually been the third tragedy under various circumstances involving someone in their 30s who our family knew since the start of this year. Of course death is always terrible, but there is something even worse about it when it is a young person with so much life ahead I think. Things like this just remind you all the more how short and precious life is.

In terms of the pregnancy and travelling, I didn't experience any complications flying and wasn't even asked to show the letter my doctor had given me saying I was safe to fly. I'm glad I made the trip over.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

week 24 - viability milestone #pregnancyDiary

Week 24 is a bit of a milestone. This is the earliest that a baby could possibly survive if he/she were born already. The statistics improve for every extra week they stay in the womb. So it goes form odds of only around 40% at this week to around 90% by week 30. It's great to have reached this stage.

At the weekend we had to run some errands. Since we do car sharing it makes sense to rent the car for something like four hours then try to get everything done at once. It can be a bit of a rush though! We brought some garden waste to the dump, went to the hardware store to pick up some things, then went to a furniture shop and finally to the supermarket for groceries. It was Saturday morning so everywhere seemed to have traffic and long queues. It was good to get stuff done but exhausting. I felt a little faint at one stage at the hardware shop so once we got to the furniture place we went to the cafe for a snack. Once we got home and had unpacked the stuff we had to prepare lunch before finally we were able to put our feet up and relax.

On the way back in the car it suddenly hit me that next year we will have a baby and everything will change. Planning a trip like that would have a whole other dimension added as presumably we'd have to think about bringing a nappy changing bag, be aware of naps and feeding times, use a car seat and have a buggy or carrier. Of course I have often been daydreaming and imagining how things will be with a baby but the huge responsibility of it just struck me all of a sudden! This isn't going to be something we'll be doing for just a few weeks, our lives will be changed forever. I'm not saying I'm not ready and I don't want this completely. It was just a moment of thinking of how much our lives will be different next year!

I've had friends in the past say to me that after they had their kids they had to mourn their old lives - being able to do things spontaneously for instance. As someone going through infertility I didn't have that much sympathy since I was more than ready to give up a lot of my freedoms, though I would try to understand. Of course whenever I picture our lives with a kid I imagine a well behaved easy one. I'm not daydreaming about being thrown up on or having to look after a screaming baby, haha! We'll figure it out though. Hubby and I will make a good team, I hope. I've been reading lots of articles about parenting so I do think I'm somewhat prepared. My birth preparation course starts next week. Hopefully we'll be shown how to change a nappy and bathe a baby, practical stuff like that but if not the Hebamme who will come over after the birth should help us. It's nice to have a few more months to prepare for baby's arrival.

A few days ago I went to the general doctor to get the flu vaccine. My arm was a little sore for a few days after but otherwise no side effects. She commented again how happy she is for me and also that I seemed much less anxious compared to the last time I was there. I had gone to her with my bad cold and cough and asked if I could also be tested for listeria while I was there as I'd worried I'd picked it up by eating some smoked salmon. She had looked at me at the time like I was a little crazy and told me if I had listeria I would have symptoms and it's really unlikely to get it. These days I don't freak out as much about little things.

I had another doctor's appointment this week. This time there was no ultrasound unfortunately. But it's ok, I've been feeling the baby move a lot now so I'm not as anxious to see what's going on in there! Everything was good. He commented that my cervix is "very nice", haha! I had to drink the sweet drink and get my blood taken an hour later to check my glucose levels. I got the results after a few days and they were fine thankfully. The doctor told me I can stop taking the baby aspirin tablets now. He thinks that might also help against my frequent nose bleeds. He wrote a letter for me to bring to the airport when I fly next week just in case it's needed. Hubby wasn't able to come with me and he'll have to miss the next appointment in a month's time too sadly, but the one after in January he'll be able to make. I've been feeling really grateful today that this has been such a smooth pregnancy overall. Hoping it continues to be so!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

week 23 - no news is good news #pregnancyDiary

My job has been quite stressful lately. Some people left and now there is a lot more work for the rest of us until they find and hire replacements which will probably take months. I've had to do a fair bit of overtime recently too. At least, this was a short week at work which was nice. Baden wurttemberg had two public holidays in a row this year, October 31st and Nov 1st. Hubby and I had a lot of relaxation time. Not much else to report lately. We binge watched the new season of Stranger Things which was really good. I've been catching up on my reading.

The most annoying pregnancy symptom at the moment is probably the heartburn. I tend to get it really bad most evenings. It feel like my throat is on fire! I've been managing quite well with antiacid tablets though. As I mentioned before we already have gotten quite a lot for the baby. Mostly things were given to us by friends who don't need them anymore and we also picked up some stuff second hand. We plan to buy a chest of drawers to put all the clothes and blankets in. We also have to get the cot still. I love the idea of the ones which attach next to the parents' bed to make feeding easier and so the baby is close to you but also in their own space to avoid the danger of SIDS. I've been picking up lots of tips from talking to friends so I think I'm starting to get a pretty good idea of what life could be like with a newborn.

I did feel a little uncomfortable at first with us getting so much baby stuff already as if it were up to me I would have waited longer to start preparing. In Ireland traditionally people are very suspicious about buying things for a child before he or she is born! My parents' generation were like that and some people still are. Things have change massively in recent years though. On a facebook group I'm in for Irish women due the same month as me I noticed that most of the woman had already gotten loads of stuff by this stage. I decided that I don't want to wait until the baby is here to start getting everything- that would be totally stressful! I'd rather be prepared. Also I think at this stage in the pregnancy it is ok to feel relatively secure that everything will be fine. So we are going to continue to prepare and aim to have most things ready by January.

Since the 20 week scan I've also started feeling a lot more relaxed about the pregnancy in general. I'm not as anxious anymore. I've been letting myself believe that we will have a baby and just feeling happy and excited! I've also started to feel more relaxed about things in general, not being as anxious that any little thing I do could negatively affect the baby. I've even introduced some gluten into my diet again. I had quit it as I'd read undiagnosed gluten intolerance was frequent among women with unexplained infertility and it had also been giving me some digestive issues. I find now though that eating it occasionally seems to be ok. I've also been eating dairy which I'd cut out during the past IVF cycle. I was craving it a lot (particularly cheese!) and thought I should have some in case my body is missing the calcium or protein. I try to go for the low lactose options of course though as I still have a lactose intolerance. At first I wondered if I was becoming too relaxed- basically worrying about whether I'm not worrying enough! However I realised how silly that sounded and also decided that me feeling less stressed and more happy has to be a good thing for the baby.

Life can be hard, there's no doubt about that. There are plenty of times when things are awful and there probably will be in the future unfortunately, so when things ARE going well why not let yourself be happy? I'm not going to worry about "jinxing" it but will allow myself enjoy this special time. So that's been my attitude lately! I've been spending some quality moments with hubby, catching up with friends, and having daydreams about the future when we will be a family of three.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

week 22 - being social #pregnancyDiary

This week since I've been feeling good I arranged several meet ups with friends. Since most of the people I know here already have kids, a few have kindly given us lots of their old baby clothes and various items. One friend brought over three bags full of little girls clothes! I'm delighted to get all the stuff, certainly all the various baby paraphernalia can be really expensive, but I also really want to buy some things for our child too. At the weekend we took a trip to a baby shop and had a look around. It was all very overwhelming to be honest! There are so many potential things to get. I'd like to try to be a bit of a minimalist parent and only buy things that we'll actually use.

I've still been getting pretty bad heartburn these days, nosebleeds and leg cramps. Also I've noticed I often wake up early but then can't get back asleep. Those are my only real "complaints" at the moment and none of those are that bad. I've been lucky that the second trimester has been fairly smooth sailing and I'm grateful for that.

I had no idea that buggies cost so much! You are talking 800€ plus for the nicer ones. And even though we don't own a car we occasionally rent one so it could make sense to buy a baby seat. Those are 100-300€ and only for the first year. From age one to three you need to get another one. I certainly don't want to buy stuff we don't need so I'm trying to work out which items we will actually use and which aren't necessary. For instance, instead of paying several hundred on a special changing table, I'm thinking of using the top of a chest of drawers. There are some markets here where they sell used items so it might be worth checking them out for certain items. In Germany when you cycle a lot with kids you can buy an attachment for your bike. Very handy though these can cost around a thousand!

We will need to apply for the play schools here before the baby even arrives apparently as they really do get booked out fast. You need to fill out a form and register for your favourite seven then also go to them in person, plus it helps if you know someone. There's one place which has a good reputation and both English and German are spoken which would be ideal.

Only two more weeks till I reach viability stage! How cool is that? So I have decided to go to Ireland one more time before the baby arrives. I know we had decided earlier on in the pregnancy that I wouldn't travel anymore but that was when we were still feeling a lot more insecure about everything. At this stage we are both feeling more confident and I've been a bit homesick lately. This will be my last chance to go back during the second trimester and then I won't travel anymore in the third trimester.

The flights aren't so expensive this time of year and it will be nice to go back home for a few days. Hubby won't be able to come with me unfortunately. I'm going to travel light, just a carry on. It will be fun to spend a few days with family and friends. I think that ideally people shouldn't travel in the first or last trimester but the middle seems like a good time. It's only a short flight to Ireland anyway. I have another check up at my doctor in two weeks and then once I'd get back from the Ireland trip my next appointment would only be two weeks later. Obviously if I have any issues while away or after the trip I would go straight to doctor/hospital. But lately everything has been going great with the pregnancy, no issues. I'll just try to make sure to take it easy during my visit. There have been times when I've felt like I needed another holiday after a visit home as I'd be so busy going here there and everywhere trying to fit in meet ups with everyone!

I recently got a new passport - my first one with my married name. It was relatively simple - it just involved filling out a form and sending it to the Irish embassy in Berlin with photos. I had to get my signature witnessed but luckily I had a friend who fit the criteria and had the stamp so it was all fine. I'm not that happy with my new photo though, I look extremely serious and a little grumpy! That's just my resting face I guess, haha. Oh well, I doubt many people have a great passport photo.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

week 21 - gender reveal #pregnancyDiary

This week started off with my appointment at the gyno for a checkup. It had been five weeks since my last one! My mother in law came with me and it worked out well, she kept me company and loved getting to see her first grandchild. Everything went great. The doctor took various measurements and didn't see any issues. I had thought the scan would be even longer though. I'd been told the 20 week one takes ages but mine only lasted around 15 minutes (my friend told me hers had gone on for an hour!). I had kind of been hoping to see the face more but you can't really make out anything. The doctor said we could pay extra for a 3d scan at a different clinic after 24 weeks so we'd consider getting that done. However I spoke to another friend who told me the 3d scan isn't that great, it can be hard to get a good image if the baby is facing the placenta.

The great news is that the doctor was able to tell me the gender this time! My gut feeling was right, it is most likely a GIRL!! I'm thrilled. That's not to say I wouldn't have been equally delighted to be having a son, I just have had this feeling it was going to be a girl since I got pregnant and it's really nice having it confirmed. After our appointment I went into the shops with the aim of buying something for the baby to surprise my husband with. When I was in the shop, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the first time I was buying something for OUR child. There have been so many times in the past where I've gone to the baby section to buy presents for friends' kids and quite often ended up getting emotional thinking it might never happen for us. It took me ages to pick out something as it felt like such a significant moment!

I had been planning to get something pink but I didn't particularly like the things they had. However I found a cute peach and white stripped babygrow for a newborn and I picked some little white socks as well. Later at home I wrapped the items in pink ribbon and put them in a present. I wrote "Daddy / Papa" on the front. It felt like it took ages for my husband to get home from work that day. Both his Mum and I were really excited to find out his reaction. As soon as he arrived I called him into the sitting room and gave him the present. His Mum was ready with the camera. As he was opening it I started crying! I hadn't meant to, I just got overcome by the moment. He was really happy and we hugged. He got a little emotional too! Probably from seeing me tearing up. It was such a special moment. His Mum got some nice pictures too. Google turned them into a little Gif video and it is really cute. I skyped my family after and told them the news and they were all delighted for us too. And then I messaged some close friends. It was such a happy day!

This morning hubby and I discussed some names. We currently have two favourites. Both have Irish origins but we would use the international spelling. We also went into the future baby's room and discussed how we would organize it. I showed him the "Wish" book I bought and started crying once I read it. It is a story about a much wanted baby and the parents' journey to get there. I can still remember the heartbreak we went through before now and I'm so grateful and amazed to be 21 weeks pregnant right now with a healthy baby. We also looked at the children's books he had bought from his trip. It was such a nice time thinking about the future. I couldn't be happier!

My mother in law commented that four months seems ages away and she can't wait. I can wait though. It's not that I'm not really excited to meet our baby, which I am, but I am also enjoying this time. Having my child growing inside me is special and it's nice to have these months to think about the future and plan. I've been reading books on childbirth and life with a newborn. In another month I'll be starting the third trimester already which seems mad!

A friend from my book club very kindly dropped off her old maternity outfits to me plus a heap of baby clothes her kids have grown out of! Newborn stuff are so tiny, like outfits for a doll. So cute! I hope I'm not jinxing things by already getting stuff for the baby. I still have four months to go after all. But other girls on my due in Feb facebook group already started buying things weeks ago. PEople aren't as superstitious as they used to be in the old days.

And the other news this week was that I met my Hebamme (Someone in Germany who visits you and the new baby) finally! She's nice, made a good impression. However, very alternative! I think most of them are like that. For instance, I mentioned getting the flue vaccine and she said that she would never get the flu vaccine as it's putting toxins/poisons into your body. She also didn't like how many ultrasounds I've had already as she said they heat the placenta and babies don't like them as they are so loud. I have heard those theories before but I don't think it's so bad every few weeks. They offer some classes at the centre she works at such as pregnancy gymnastics. Not sure what's involved there but I might try it out sometime. The other class they have is a mediation/relaxation one which sounds nice.

The Hebamme also asked if I'm anxious when she heard that this is an IVF pregnancy. I said I have been but it's gotten a lot better. I think I've been managing the anxiety quite well in general. She basically said I have to stop myself from worrying as it's not good for the baby. I didn't like that advice as now I'll just worry that my worrying is harmful for the baby! I would have preferred if she had told me everything will be fine. I do think the baby has some awareness of the mother's feelings as your heartbeat would be slower when relaxed and stress releases the hormone cortisone whereas the happiness hormone is oxytocin. However I found some of her theories a little too far fetched for me. At the meditation class they offer for instance, you basically talk to the baby and teach them how to be born according to her! I can't believe that the baby can hear my thoughts. However I'll still go to that class and try it out. Might be a way to make some new friends.

Overall it's been a good week. I'm still just incredibly delighted that I'm carrying our child. This week hubby even got to feel a few kicks too! I notice the baby randomly but often in the evenings. Like really active for a few minutes then quiet again. It's always a nice reassurance when I feel her moving about.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Week 20 - halfway there #pregnacyDiary

This morning my husband texted me while I was at work to tell me he was reading about week 20 and the baby is now the size of a large banana! I'm finding it really sweet how involved he is being because I know some men don't really bond so much with the baby until after they are born whereas as a woman you have nine months of the connection. He even brought a little present for the baby back from his work trip - two children's books. Our baby got a second present this week too! One of my mother in law's friends knitted little booties and a blanket. So thoughtful and nice. It's mad to think I'm halfway through the pregnancy now! Actually the last few weeks have gone quite quickly. I'm excited for my next scan which is coming up soon!

I've come down with a bad cold the past few days. It started with just a runny nose and feeling a bit run down but now I've also got a horrible sounding cough making it hard to sleep at night when I have a coughing fit. I've been trying to rest up as much as I can and drinking hot teas. Hubby was worried it might develop into a chest infection or pneumonia so I went to the regular doctor after work. It was nice telling the doctor our happy news as she knew we'd been trying. I guess I told a lot of people! She said she'd rather not prescribe me anything as it will probably get better by itself, which is fine by me. She wrote me off sick for the rest of the week. Even though I've been feeling miserable with this cold (it's the worst one I've had in a long time!), I still feel guilty about having to miss work. There have been a lot of projects and deadlines lately- plus stress to be honest. I feel a bit like I'm letting people down but I have to put me and the baby first right now.

I also got some unexpected good news a few days ago. I have more holidays to use up before my maternity leave starts than I'd realised. 14 days instead of the 6 I'd thought I had basically. I'll barely be working at all really between now and mid January at this rate (due date towards the end of Feb)! In Germany your maternity leave starts six weeks before the birth. What do women normally do then I wonder? Meet up with other friends who aren't working? Cook and freeze lots of meals for when the baby arrives? Decorate the nursery? Relax? Read up on childbirth and parenting? My sister got me a book about baby development and I've been enjoying reading about it.

I think I'm definitely feeling some movement now which is great! When I place my hand below my belly button while sitting down, I notice something now and then. Sometimes it's almost like a little tap against my hand which could be a kick. Other times it's it's sort of like a vibration or muscle spasm in my stomach basically. I've started to recognize the feeling.

Of course this could still be gas, but I like to think it's the beginnings of starting to really feel the baby and it should just get stronger from now on! While watching tv last night there were two times where I definitely felt something for a second. Then today at my computer again. That must be the baby! I'm excited for when hubby will be able to place his hand on my belly and feel the baby move too. Not much else to report, my next doctor's appointment is soon and then we should hopefully find out the gender too!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

week 19 - a scare and a family visit #pregnancyDiary

The pain which I thought was round ligament pain came back and I had it for several days. I asked some friends again about what they had felt and looked at my facebook group and most seemed to describe something pretty similar to what I was feeling. It was particularly bad one day though so I decided to text my Hebamme and ask her about it. She said that the pain from the round ligaments is normally in the lower pelvis area not near the hip as I'd mentioned. At that stage I started getting worried. I didn't want to waste the doctor's time, however I also didn't want to wait another two weeks till the next scan and be worrying about it so the next day I got to his practice at 8am when it opened and mentioned the pains. I ended up having to wait about an hour since I didn't have an appointment.

What I thought would happen.
I expected to describe the pain and for the doctor to reassure me that it was normal pregnancy pain and then to go about my merry way.

What actually happened.
The doctor was concerned as the area I was having the pain is near my appendix. He also saw some fluid on the screen that he couldn't explain near my intestines. He said he would try to get me an appointment at a specialist immediately to get it checked out. The other doctor was nearby and I was able to get seen to quickly luckily. I was starting to feel very nervous about what was going on at that stage. Hubby was still away so I was just phoning him to tell him what was going on. The other doctor didn't think it was appendicitis but he couldn't rule it out. He advised me that if the pain got worse I should go to the hospital immediately! He saw the mass of fluid on my right hand side and he didn't know what it was. He told me to come back the next day for another appointment. In the meantime he took my blood to be sent to the lab to check for any signs of infection.

The rest of the day I couldn't help but worry. Like I mentioned earlier, hubby was away so I was dealing with all this on my own. I was whatsapping family and close friends from home to let them know what was going on and my mother in law was also calling me. She was getting really anxious and I felt like I had to be strong and try to reassure her! She said she would come immediately if I ended up having to go to hospital (she lives in a different town). Luckily the pain didn't get any worse. Trying to google what the fluid mass could be was a bad idea as I started seeing results about tumours and freaking out about cancer! I'd read a story recently about a pregnant woman who got cancer and had to choose between getting chemo to save herself or not and saving the baby. I don't know how people handle decisions like that! I was also thinking that I don't want to have to go to the hospital to get scary tests done, especially on my own. A normal boring day in the office had never sounded so appealing to me!

That night I managed to sleep for several hours but I woke up then feeling really worried about it all. I packed an overnight bag on the advice of a doctor friend just in case I'd be sent to the hospital after my appointment. There was a long wait at the practice. Finally I got in and he asked how I was feeling. Nervous I said! The pain was the same. My blood test results had come back only showing a slight infection elevation which could just be from a cold. That was good news as if I had appendicitis the results would have looked worse. The doctor did a scan and after several agonizing minutes said that I had an intestinal partial blockage. That's what's been causing the pain. I should massage my tummy clockwise to help digestion and eat simple meals over the next few days. Pregnancy pushes the intestine up into a smaller space often leading to digestion issues. My previous adhesions from surgeries are probably not helping things either.

I was told to come back after several days for another appointment but for the time being all was fine. I didn't have to go to hospital that day which was a relief! Of course he mentioned again that if my pain gets worse I should go straight in and he gave me a printout of my blood test but for now I was able to go back to work. I'm relieved it's not a tumour or something serious! That said if I do end up getting a full intestine blockage that would be a dangerous situation requiring surgery. So I am a little worried about that possibility at some point especially as the pregnancy progresses. For now I'll keep up with the tummy massages to help digestion and watch what I eat.


So at the end of the week I had my third appointment at the doctor for a checkup. He could still see the strange fluid on the screen. I tried to ask more questions this time. The fluid is in my small intestine he says. I also have a lot of air in my intestine which will cause cramps. He said I can eat normally now though still try to avoid food with a lot of "air" such as beans and cauliflower. And then come back in two weeks for another check up and at that stage he'll test my blood for signs of infection again. The pains I was getting have improved significantly recently thankfully. So it looks like for the moment everything is fine and I can breath a sigh of relief!

While I was going through the scare it was also harder as I was on my own. Hubby was away with work. Now he's back and it's been really nice. Also my Dad and sister came over to visit me! They stayed for four days and it was just perfect. They even got quite nice sunny autumn weather while they were here. We went to a pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg and there was even a wedding fair on that day which we checked out for my sis in case it gave her any ideas.

Another day the weather was warm so we went to the pool for a spa day. I avoided the sauna but enjoyed swimming! We also took my family to some of our favourite restaurants and they had some good meals. It was sad saying goodbye though as I won't be flying to ireland again until the baby is here and a few months old, so it'll be my longest stretch not going back "home". It's great these days with skype, whatsapp and google hangout though, you don't feel as far away as you did in the past.

So the week started off scary with the pains and doctor visits but ended really lovely enjoying some family time. Here are some pictures from our day at Ludwigsburg exploring the castle grounds and pumpkin festival. If you are ever in the area it's worth checking out. The festival takes place every year around September and October.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

When is the right time to talk about gun control?

I rarely get political on this blog. It's not that I don't have a lot of thoughts and opinions on what's going on around me, it's that so many topics seem to be extremely decisive these days with so many people strongly on one side or the other finding it hard to come together in the middle to reach any common ground.

What's upsetting me recently though is the lack of proper gun control debate in America. The Las Vegas shooting was absolutely horrific and tragic. I feel awful for all the victims and their families and I find it so hard to comprehend how someone could do something like that. Prayers and thoughts are great but what is also necessary after something like this is action. Clearly the laws need to change. Gun violence in the States is way too prevalent and it is not ok to just accept it as a part of life now!

It is so frustrating though when people try to bring up gun control but are shut down because "now isn't the time". I've also seen comments such as that "leftists are disgusting" to be bringing up politics at a time like this. At the end of the day, both sides want an end to tragedies like this. So if now isn't the right time to discuss gun control, when is? I've also heard arguments saying these events couldn't have been prevented. Those people who think that way don't seem to even want to try which just annoys me. Other countries don't have as many gun deaths so surely the States can look to other examples and learn from them.

A few years ago there was a bill with the aim of banning people on the no fly list from being able to buy a gun. Something like 80% of the general public agreed with it. When it was brought to congress it was overruled and didn't even get to a vote! The NRA lobby are too powerful there it seems. Then there are other opposers to gun control who think that we want to take away all guns and go on about the importance of their second amendment rights. The objective isn't to ban every weapon. The idea is to bring in restrictions such as more thorough background checks, particularly at places such as gun shows where I believe someone can buy one without a check at all. Also is there really a need for a person to have an assault rifle or machine gun?! And maybe there should also be limits to the amount of guns one person can own. At the very least let's do some more research and come up with a plan.

Now, I realise I'm saying all this as an outsider. I'm not American. I'm European and just trying to understand things there. But to me it seems clear. We all want to reduce gun violence. So why not work together to find a solution instead of refusing to even talk about it?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

week 18 - sharing the news #pregnancyDiary

After we got the all clear from the harmony blood test last week both hubby and I decided it felt like the right time to share the news more freely at work. He spoke to his boss and told him that he plans to take some of the parental leave. His boss knew about our struggles to have children and was happy for us which was sweet. I had a chat with my manager and that went well too. Once that was done I gradually started telling a few more colleagues who I would interact with quite frequently. I figure the news will probably spread. Everyone was nice about it and congratulated me. There was one comment that bugged me though! This one colleague acted surprised and said he thought I didn't want kids. He reminded me about that (very awkward) time last year when he had asked me about children and according to him, I hadn't seemed keen.

Basically he asked me in front of several other colleagues what my family plans were. So rude and inappropriate! I think I was in shock at the bluntness of such a question and I basically answered vaguely, something like "not yet" and changed the subject to talk about my upcoming Australia trip. That guy is just totally clueless. Of course he assumes that a couple who don't have kids must not want them because if they did, they would just have them, right? Easy peasy. I'm very tempted to say something to him about it if the right opportunity arises. He also made the comment about thinking I didn't want kids in front of several other colleagues. He then told us that he's just persuaded his wife to try for a second baby. I know for a fact that the other colleague he mentioned it to has been trying with his wife to have a second child and she's had a miscarriage. So I can imagine the comments could have bothered him too. Anyway if I have a chance just the two of us I will tell him that actually it was very difficult for us to get this far, without going into all the details, and mention that asking someone about their family planning isn't appropriate as you have no idea what might be happening behind the scenes! I'll just have to figure out how to say it tactfully in German.

People have generally been surprised to hear about the pregnancy so I guess it's not as obvious as I thought! I've barely put on any weight so far probably due to the fact that in the first trimester I didn't have much of an appetite with the nausea. I think I'm eating better now though so I'll probably start getting bigger soon. According to a pregnancy weight calculator I found online, I'm slightly under the amount I should have gained by this stage. I'm sure I'll catch up though! Generally I've been eating reasonably healthy but if I'm craving a treat such as chocolate or crisps, I go ahead.

I've read around week 18-20 first time Mums should be able to start feeling kicks! I've felt nothing yet. Unless I've mistaken it for indigestion! My next scan is going to be at 21 weeks not 20 as my gyno is on holidays again. I'm disappointed as hubby won't be able to make it this time especially as the anatomy scan is a big one. I tried to get a different appointment time that week but they are all booked up. However I then had the idea that I could see if my mother in law would like to come. She was delighted to be asked! I think it will be nice for her to be involved. This is her first grandchild and she's really excited. The only weird thing is that she'll probably find out the baby's gender before hubby! She's promised she'll keep it a secret though. I was thinking after the scan maybe I would go and buy little pink or blue socks and surprise him with them later after work!

This week hubby has been away on a work trip. The house feels really quiet without him. At the weekend I met up with friends for lunch and some shopping then relaxed on the couch watching "Look who's talking". A pretty quiet Saturday night! That's such a funny film. The maternity fashion in the 80s was basically like a big tent! Of course the childbirth scene looked pretty painful as per usual in the movies with the main character begging for pain relief. I loved the scenes where you'd hear what the baby is thinking in womb.

Sunday I met up with a good friend here. She also went through years of infertility - five in this case before finally having a daughter. Her little one is at a fun age now, 10 months. We took her to the playground and she really enjoyed herself. She's also very friendly and good with people. There was a stage when she was only a few months old where she was very attached to her mum and would cry when I tried to hold her. Luckily that's changed. Next year our baby would be around ten months old at Christmas time. The thought of bringing my baby home for an Irish Christmas with my family warms my heart!

The round ligament pain is back now. It feels like general dull aches and pains during the day but gets worse if I sneeze or cough. Then at night when I change positions while sleeping I'll often get woken up with the pain and it takes awhile to get comfortable again. I've also started waking up an hour or two early each morning needing to pee. So it hasn't been a totally restful sleep. I've noticed an occasional heavy feeling around my pelvis. Apparently perfectly normal as the uterus is now the size of a honey melon! However overall I'm feeling good. My "bump" has popped out more and I love it. I enjoy singing to the baby while I'm getting dressed in the mornings. "My bump, my lovely baby bump" (sung to Black eyed peas "my lovely lady lumps" tune). When I'm out and about and I see something nice, such a pretty autumn leaves or a sunset I think how I can't wait to show our child all the great things this world has to offer one day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

week 17 - harmony test #pregnancyDiary

So my last updates ended up being pretty long! Well done to those of you who made it through the entire thing. It's making me wonder whether I should break up the weeks into smaller chunks so that's what I'll try now.

Week 17 thoughts

I've been experiencing pain on my right hand side above my hip. At my last appointment I mentioned to my doctor that I'd had various cramps and pains but in general they weren't severe and usually went away and he didn't seem too concerned. The next day the pain on my right seemed to get worse! I noticed it more during movement such as when I'd get up from sitting or turn around in bed during the night. It felt sort of like a stitch or pulled muscle. When it didn't seem to go away I started wondering whether I should go to the hospital to get checked out (this was outside my doctor's opening hours). I had more or less decided I would go to the hospital when I was googling and started reading about something called round ligament pain and realised that's exactly what it felt like. I also messaged several friends who'd had kids to ask them if they'd had something similar. Some hadn't but the majority had. I decided I would wait and see if it got better and luckily it did. I still notice it sometimes but it's not as painful. It seems like aches and pains are to be expected!

Even though I am feeling delighted to have reached 17 weeks, the anxiety hasn't gone away completely. Instead of worrying about miscarriage I've started fearing something going wrong at the birth, even though it's ages away. I've had two surgeries in my lifetime and I have a lot of adhesions and scar tissue as a result. I was told after the operations that the adhesions around my intestines could cause a blockage at any point and that would require emergency surgery. I was googling and saw that although adhesion surgery during pregnancy is possible it carries high risk of infant death and even maternal death. I decided to stop reading those articles! I did take serrapettase for a few months before getting pregnant so hopefully that dissolved some of the adhesions. And there is no point worrying about something that please God won't happen! Stillbirth is another worry. It's not such a far fetched thing as it happened to one of my best friends from home.

I am trying to not think about all those things as obviously worrying and stressing isn't good. I doubt I'll be able to fully relax until our baby is actually here safely. I've been trying to remind myself that so far my body has done what is is meant to and everything has been fine. When I share some of my worries with hubby, instead of telling me that the things I'm anxious about are really unli kely or whatever, he starts to look worried too. So I don't think he's the best person to share all my anxieties with! I think the next time I'm at my gyno I'll tell him about my worries in terms of my previous surgeries having an impact and hopefully he'll give me some reassurance. Anyway later today I'll be phoning my doctor about the harmony test results. I'm feeling a little anxious and really hoping that will all be fine.

Next day

So the update is I must have phoned the doctor about thirty times yesterday but couldn't get through! He has certain Sprechstunde (available speaking times), just a short window really. 4.30 till 5pm on Monday and wednesdays. I had to get to work extra early that day, take a short lunch and rush home in order to try to make that time slot. At first the phone was engaged every time I called. Then finally at 5pm I got through but no one answered, making me wonder whether he just ran out of the door once the window has closed! I tried several times after but still no joy. It was frustrating as we really just want to get the results of the harmony test now to find out if everything is ok. This morning I phoned and was told that I can only be given the results by the doctor and "that's what his Sprechstunde are for". His receptionist can be a bit snarky. I explained how I HAD phoned. She said he's busy today and not there tomorrow so we have to wait till Monday and try again then. Frustrating!

Anyway, I guess I am used to having to work on my patience by now so whatever. I decided I'll hold off on telling more people in the office till next week. Actually I did read that some women don't tell work till they are 20 weeks. They probably wait until after the anatomy scan then. Depending on your figure, it IS possible to conceal the pregnancy. I take back what I wrote before saying it is very hard to hide. I do have a small "bump" but it doesn't look that different to being bloated or whatever and unless someone is looking for it it's not so obvious. There was a team lunch I was at a few weeks ago where the waiter brought us all a digestive shot to drink after the meal, with alochol. I turned it down but so did some other colleagues who didn't want to drink during their work day so it wasn't so noticeable. And even though I've been nasueas, I haven't had to throw up at work luckily, only at home!

The majority of my friends here already had kids (most have two by now). It would have been nice to have gotten pregnant at the same time as some of them. However I love this baby now and I'm not going to live in the past wishing it had happened sooner. I do have one friend here who is two weeks behind me though! I met up with her yesterday which was really nice. We are going to try to go to the same Geburtvorberitungskurs (birth preparation class) in the hospital if possible. Most of the courses have already been booked out! We are hoping to get the one starting November which goes on till January. It'll be two hours once a week.

At my husband's work there are more pregnancies too. I am surprised at how fertile all his work colleagues seem to be. It looks like we are the only ones who had difficulties, judging from how soon most of them seemed to have gotten pregnant after their weddings. Nice for them not to have to deal with infertility of course! Sometimes I feel a little sting at people who are easily able to have several kids wheras we have accepted that we'll most likely just have one. And I hate when people make comments about only children being lonely or how it's selfish for parents to only have one. I can imagine that our one will be very happy! We can make sure to go on plenty of "play dates" and maybe get a pet at some stage.

Later that week

I've noticed that I've been feeling much better in general! It's like a fog has lifted. I don't have the nausea as bad at all anymore and I'm feeling more energetic. I guess this is why the second trimester is considered the "honeymoon" phase! I had a productive week in work on a big project and was feeling very proud of myself. So overall it's been a good week. I've even been more social too. Now I'm not as exhausted all the time, I've started meeting up with friends more often which is fun.

Hubby finally managed to get through to our doctor and we found out the results from the harmony test. Everything is great! The baby only has a 0.01% probability of any of the three major defects. Such a relief! I'm glad now we did decide to go for the harmony test in the end, it's so nice to have that peace of mind. The doctor even said that the results were hervorragend meaning excellent. We already feel like proud parents! My thyroid levels were also fine - TSH 0.7. And my iron levels are a solid 12.2. So good news all round.

Monday, September 25, 2017

What I've been eating lately

Yes, I'm one of those annoying people who takes photos of their food in restaurants before eating! Anyway I thought I'd share pictures of some of the meals I've enjoyed lately while eating out or at home.

Firstly, pumpkin risotto. Yum. I'm a big fan of risotto. Love it with mushrooms or pumpkin in particular. This one was covered in lots of parmesan cheese too. (Meaning I had to take several lactase tablets but so worth it!) This was eaten an international restaurant chain with Italian cuisine, Vapiano.

Another time I had a burgerless burger with avocado sauce and salad. I generally love all things avocado. This was at another restaurant chain, though it's only in Germany as far as I know, called Hans im Glück (happy Hans!). I got the burger bunless as I wanted to avoid any gluten. I also didn't get any cheese as I was trying to be dairy free that day. It came with a vegan sauce.

At home I cooked a yummy vegan meal recently; butternut squash, lentil and spinach curry. I was loosely following this recipe and it turned out really well. Hubby said it was "delicious". The following day I used the leftover squash to make a carrot and butternut squash soup by basically throwing it into a pot along with ginger, onion, garlic, vegetable stock, italian herbs, turmeric and black pepper then using my smoothie maker to blend it once it was soft. I also added coconut milk so it would be creamy. That's a good cream alternative when you are dairy free.

I made myself a healthy salad one evening with rocket leaves, cocktail tomatoes, cucumber, walnuts, avocado and cheese. For the dressing I used olive oil, a little lemon juice and basil and oregano with black pepper.

My husband and I eat a lot of vegan meals as we try not to eat a large amounts of animal products. When we do eat meat, then ideally it's organic and not processed. This was gnocchi with mediterranean veg and rocket leaves at the vegan place in town.

I've got quite a sweet tooth. Dessert used to be my favourite course when I was younger! This is a gluten free carrot cake I enjoyed recently with a caffeine free cappuccino and soya milk.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

weeks 13 - 16

Trigger warning: pregnancy discussed.
I just wanted to say that I'll be continuing to share my thoughts on this pregnancy every few weeks. If you are at a place right now where you find reading about this hard or upsetting then please skip these posts by all means and look after yourself. I understand completely. I'm planning to continue to separately blog about non pregnancy related stuff also.

Week 13 thoughts

Some people consider week 13 to be the official start of the second trimester, for others it's week 14. Baby is now the size of a fig! I actually don't have much of a "bump" yet which is probably just as well since only a select few people at my office know yet and I don't want it to be too obvious. Once we have the 16 week scan, provided everything is fine, then I would start telling more people at work. It still feels like such a personal thing though.

I haven't really been doing that much lately. I still get tired pretty easily and evenings after work I often just feel like relaxing with a good book or in front of the telly. Last weekend himself and I spent Saturday catching up on housework and chores and just hanging out. Sunday I met up with some friends. One of them lent me a pregnancy book. There was a section at the beginning about getting pregnant. I had a look through it and felt like laughing as all the information just seemed so basic to me - for people who don't have a clue about fertility. I could easily write a thesis on all I know by this stage! I still feel a little jealous sometimes towards the women for whom pregnancy came easily and without problems. Don't think that will ever go away completely. I joined a group of Irish women on facebook who are also due in February as I heard it can be a nice way to make friends. Quite a few are on their fourth child already! It's not that I particularly want to have four kids, I'm just jealous of how nice it must be to be able to plan and choose how many children you want and when to have them.

I continue to be grateful for this pregnancy. Sometimes I feel guilty too. Sort of like survivors guilt. I know there are so many great people out there who are still trying or have since resolved child free and I'm really sorry when it doesn't happen for them. I'm certainly not in any way more 'worthy' than anyone else. I also don't even know for sure what was the winning combination that helped it work for us this time. It could have been changing clinics and the new approach, it could have been all our healthy eating and the fact I went gluten and dairy free, it could have been the melatonin tablets which improved egg quality or the DHEA I took for a few months beforehand or all the extra prayers! We'll never know for sure.

Sometimes I think the nausea has gotten much better and then I get it again. Brushing my teeth often makes gag and feel like I might need to throw up. I went into H&M and had a look at the maternity section. I felt a little like an imposter, like someone might tap me on the shoulder and ask me what I was doing there. They had some nice things but I didn't feel ready to buy anything yet. So far I've been making do with some jeans I have that are not tight around the waist, plus doing the hair bobbin trick where you put a hair tie around the button and through the jeans hole. And I've been wearing longish tops.

I've been thinking today again how lucky we are. I had lunch with a friend (let's call her J.) who's friends with a fertility doctor at a clinic in Munich. She often tells me stories of her patients. J also told her doctor friend about our story. When she heard about us considering the immune protocol, she was all for it, saying she had seen that help in lots of cases. I'm talking specifically patients who have had immune related issues diagnosed when they got extra blood testing done. Anyway I asked J. if she had updated her doctor friend about our pregnancy. She said she had and her friend was really happy for us but also surprised. She had thought based on what she had heard about me (previous surgeries, poor responder etc) that it wouldn't work until our 8th IVF attempt!

The fact is we wouldn't have done eight rounds. We decided that the fourth would be our limit. We couldn't keep putting ourselves through it. So yeah I was just thinking today how incredibly lucky we are that the fourth attempt seems to have worked so far! Somehow our baby now exists and is growing. Things could easily have turned out differently. I'm not saying that the alternative would have been an awful future or anything, we would have found ways to move forward, but I am incredibly glad that this little baby seems to be a fighter and please God will get born in six months time and join us!

There are plenty of fertile people who take their children for granted. After going through the journey we did (and seeing what other people go through), we are well aware of how precious each life is! The timing is everything too. If we had done IVF a month earlier or later, it could easily not have worked. It wouldn't be this exact unique baby created from that particular egg and sperm. This new person (with a soul as that's what I believe) exists now and there is just something so incredible about it. It began with a bunch of cells which kept multiplying and then started forming things like a head, brain, spine, liver, kidneys. Each cell knowing exactly what it's meant to do.

Week 14

I am officially in the second trimester now! How cool is that? From what I've read this is the most fun time (the honeymoon period) as you are meant to start having more energy, less nausea but don't yet feel uncomfortable. It'll still be several more weeks until I can feel any kicks probably. That seems unreal to me, the thought of it! I have gradually been reducing the steroids and right now I am only taking 2.5mg - barely anything. Unfortunately reducing the steroids also meant my nausea seemed to get a bit worse I noticed! From about 5pm till 8pm I feel particularly crap. Being in the office at that stage isn't fun. Like I mentioned before lots of snacking helps. I had one evening where I was leaving work around 7pm and pretty much had to hurry as I was worried I might throw up in the office! Thankfully it passed and I got home and ate something immediately and was ok soon after.

Hubby doesn't feel comfortable with me flying anywhere so he would prefer for us not to go to Ireland until after the birth. He pointed out that "we only have one shot at this". I don't want to do anything to make him feel uncomfortable and of course our baby's health has priority but it's moments like this where I feel the distance from home. Well, this is my home now of course, but I wish I could see my family more often. However I am hoping they will visit me which would be great. I haven't totally ruled out the idea of an Ireland trip but it's looking less likely at the moment. I also need to apply for a new Irish passport as mine is expiring in a few months so need to get that sorted asap. I already phoned the nearest Irish embassy and requested they send the form out.

It's still two weeks till my next scan and as usual it feels like a long time. I'd just like to know baby is ok in there. But I am trying to remind myself there is no reason to worry. I did use the doppler again last night. This time I was able to find the heartbeat fairly quickly though only for a few seconds which makes me wonder if the baby doesn't like the doppler ultrasound waves and is moving away from it. Every night when I'm in bed, I "talk" to the baby. I'm trying to get him/her used to my voice and already start teaching him/her my accent, haha! I just really want the baby to have a strong Irish identity despite living in Germany. I also looked up some Irish folklore children's books which we could read together one day. Traditional Irish stories have a fair bit of violence though. It's a bit like the Grimm fairy tales. There are lots of battles and superstitions! "The children of Lir" is one story which sticks out in my memory.

Hubby and I have discussed how we would split the parental leave. We are thinking that the first month we would take off together then I would stay at home for about six months after that and then I would go back to work with reduced hours if that's an option (it should be but need to talk to HR) and then hubby would stay at home the few six months until baby is about one. I am delighted that hubby wants to spend that time with our child, I think it will be really good bonding experience.

In other news my little sister got engaged! Yay! Very excited for her. Her and her fiance are thinking about a small beach destination wedding which sounds fab. It's crazy for me to think that next summer we could be attending her wedding with our baby. I still feel nervous sometimes thinking too far ahead about the future, though at the other time it is lovely to imagine. I know it won't all be amazing of course, I'm not totally naive. I've followed blogs of women after they have their baby, plus I've heard from friends and I have seen how hard the first few months can be. The idea of childbirth is a bit scary too!

I already had to try to book a "Hebamme". The direction translation is "midwife" but they don't usually attend the birth. It's all a little alternative. You can go to the Habamme here instead of your doctor for your checkups and your health insurance would cover it. The main thing they do though is come visit you after the baby is there and help out. A certain amount of visits are covered. And they offer classes such as "Rückbildungskurs" with exercises to help put everything back into place after birth! And some offer things like pregnancy yoga too. Anyway they are really hard to get as they get booked up really fast but I've managed to find one a friend recommend who's going to visit in a few weeks to meet me.

I went back to H&M and this time bought some maternity shorts and "mama" tights which were reduced. The shorts are really comfy! The weather has changed from summer so I only wore them once and then started thinking that buying shorts might not have been the best idea. However I tried wearing them with tights which was a cute look.

Week 15 thoughts

My gyno is finally back from his holidays after about a month! We phoned on Monday to try to get our blood test results but the practice assistant said he was busy and to call back Wednesday. Wednesday hubby phoned and it turns out the doctor never did the first trimester screening blood test as we thought! He only did some sort of standard blood test. Needless to say we were rather annoyed about it! When we had phoned the following week we were told the results weren't there yet and the next time we called were told we'd have to wait till after his holidays. If we had known that he didn't do the blood test then we would have gotten it done at my 12 week appointment at the other doctor. Now it's too late as it can only be done between weeks 10 and 14 apparently. I really don't know how the "miscommunication" even happened. We both remember the doctor telling us about the blood test you can get that tells you your risk of gene defects and me saying I wanted to get it done.

There is another blood test I could get but it costs between 300 and 500 euros as far as I know. It's called the Harmony test. They would send my blood off to a lab in the US apparently and it would take about a week. The results are about 98% accurate. I've read that there can be false negatives or positives though and sometimes the blood test can be inconclusive. We are undecided about whether to get it or not. On the one hand it would be nice to get the peace of mind that things are ok but I think the risk of something being wrong are still very low. The measurements taken at the last ultrasound were all fine. If there were some health problems with the baby then we would like to ideally know in advance and plan for it. If there is something seriously wrong then that would be a very difficult conversation since hubby and I have somewhat different views. But I would like to remain positive and have faith that everything will be ok. When we go for my appointment next week we'll discuss our risks with the doctor then.

Week 15 - later that week

Tomorrow is our appointment! I'm excited to see the baby again. And a little nervous too. I think the nerves will always be there a little bit. I've started coming down with a sore throat lately and just feel quite run down. My nausea was pretty bad last week, I had to throw up several times but it has been more bearable this week, or maybe I'm just managing it better. I wonder whether we'll be able to find out the sex tomorrow! I am convinced it is a girl so I'll be shocked if it turns out to be a boy. I just have a strong feeling for some reason. I've had dreams about having a little girl too. We decided we are going to get the harmony blood test done. We probably should have done it weeks ago. It would give us peace of mind to know that everything is ok. Well with 98/99% accuracy.

I'm starting to look a little more pregnant too! It's getting harder to "hide" it at work. I think I'll probably have to start telling colleagues soon. Hubby has been really great. We're married four years now and still as happy as ever. He's been protective of me and the baby which is really sweet. When I'm lying in bed and have heartburn he goes down to the kitchen to get my heartburn tablets or a glass of water. He often cleans the kitchen to help get rid of all the food smells so I feel less nauseous. I still can hardly believe we could have an actual baby next year! I was out with friends for lunch at the weekend and there was a tiny newborn baby at the table next to us. Very cute. I was thinking, "am I really going to get one of those?" So amazing! The only thing that scares me a little is the actual childbirth but I'm trying not to think about that too much yet. I'm not that anxious about the pain, although that doesn't sound fun, but rather scared of something going wrong. The hospitals and doctors here are really good though so I know I'll be in good hands. I'll just need to learn all the relevant words in German beforehand!

The immune doctor send me the printout of the test results from my blood test at week 13. She recommends I get another blood test done at week 17 to check the natural killer cells again. That seems excessive to me. Surely by now even if my natural killer cells were to increase my body wouldn't fight the baby?! I'm considering not doing another blood test but then I don't want to take any risks either just in case. I'm going to ask my doctor tomorrow what he thinks. We decided that we won't fly to Ireland again until after the baby is born. Or fly anywhere. Hubby worries about the baby being exposed to radiation. I know plenty of people fly all the time but if it makes him feel better for me not to fly I'm ok with that. Also the fact that the only time I had some bleeding in this pregnancy was a few days after my last flight to Ireland makes me worry a bit about it also. I do feel sad at not seeing friends and extended family again.

However my family are planning to visit me here which I'm excited about. And I'm planning to arrange some skype chats with friends so I can still catch up on their news. I recently found out another friend of mine here is pregnant too. She's two weeks behind me. It will be nice having someone at the same stage to meet up with. Some friends told me recently that they hated being pregnant. I guess they didn't like feeling sick and uncomfortable. I can honestly say I love it. The hardest parts are the anxiety and nausea. The latter I mentioned already, mine seems to be worse than average but it's still manageable. The anxiety is hard though. I'm often worried that something might be going wrong. Apart from that I love the idea of having my baby with me wherever I go and I don't want to rush this time away.

The Hebamme who was meant to visit me got lost and couldn't find her way to our house! She phoned several times and we gave her directions and in the end she gave up. That was rather disappointing. She said I can "call her when the baby is there". To be honest I would much prefer to meet the person before the birth. I messaged another two recommended Habamme and both were too busy to take anyone else on but I finally found someone and I'm going to meet her in October. Hopefully she's nice.

Week 16 appointment

We had our appointment at the doctor finally. The whole thing took ages. Every time I have to give a pee sample, get weighed and have my blood pressure checked. The latter of which was very low. That probably explains why I've noticed I feel dizzy if I stand up to fast. The doctor's assistant also used a device on my stomach to measure any contractions which took about 20 minutes. Luckily there weren't any as it would be far too early! She also gave us a free pregnancy box which contained a few things for the baby. You get another box after birth. We put it into the green room.

We agreed to do the Harmony blood test. There were three options. One that just checks for the three most serious potential issues. The second would have also told us gender and the third option would check for less serious issues (for instance turner's disease). We are happy to just wait until the gender is revealed at a scan and we just wanted to rule out the most serious and potentially life threatening issues so we went for the first option. We'll find the results out in a week. It doesn't actually get sent to the States, they now have labs in Germany where the harmony test can be done. It only cost 250€ in the end. Totally worth it if it gives us peace of mind.

The doctor wouldn't have done an ultrasound today but said he could get one for 40€ extra. Naturally we wanted to make sure everything is still ok with the baby and have a look. Actually this time the baby didn't look all that different from the previous one, and we couldn't really see so much extra but it was still lovely of course. As soon as the doctor started the ultrasound the baby was visible immediately and as usual I found myself holding my breath until I could see the little heart beating. That anxiety never leaves. At one stage the doctor zoomed in on the baby's genital area and said it looked like a girl most likely, although he commented that we shouldn't go out and buy loads of pink things just yet. However later on he was looking again and then he thought he did see something and was less sure! So in the end it was still inconclusive. That was a little disappointing, it would have been nice to know already. My next appointment won't be for five weeks which seems long but that's how they do it here.

There was one potentially bad thing though. The doctor noticed something when he was scanning me later. I'm not sure if he was looking at the placenta or what but then he said I could be at higher risk of developing pre eclampsia which is a little scary. He told me to buy a home blood pressure monitor and use it three times a day making a note of the values. If the value gets too high on a few occasions then make an appointment with him asap, not to wait the five weeks. He also told me to take drops for my blood pressure.

Hubby and I were a bit confused after since my blood pressure is more likely to be low rather than high. When I got the bottle of drops of which I'm meant to take 20 drops of a day, I noticed it has a high alcohol content! So then I was wondering what's worse for the baby; me having too low blood pressure or consuming small amounts of alcohol? I presume if my doctor says it's ok it is but I'm thinking of just taking 10 drops a day at first and seeing if that helps.

We also got another printout of the ultrasound. I took a picture with my phone and when I zoomed in I thought I could make out a cute little button nose and pretty lips! After everything went well with the appointment I decided to phone an aunt who hadn't heard the good news yet. She was delighted for us and I'm glad I told her myself. She also shared some stories of my Mum and Granny with me which was lovely (both of whom have sadly passed). She told me how wanted myself, my sister and brother were. It was lovely to hear. I know my Mum would have made a really fantastic grandmother. Whenever big events happen in my life, it reminds me again what a loss it is when you don't have your mother around. I have to believe she's in heaven watching down over us all now. I'm going to tell our child all about her of course!

I can more or less accept that I am pregnant now, although I still can't believe that we'll really (please God) have an actual baby with us next year! I feel grateful every day for this miracle and never take it for granted.