I’m five days away from being full term. Eeek. I’m not going to lie, as the due date creeps closer, I get more and more nervous. Also, I’m basically terrified. I don’t know how I’m 38 weeks along but I am. It’s not that I’m not excited to meet my baby, because I am, but I’m so scared of everything else. There are so many questions swirling in my head. What if it’s too much? Will J and I be able to survive this? What if I’m not good at this? What if the baby never sleeps? Who am I to think I could be someone’s mom?? It’s the fear of the unknown that freaks me out. I don’t know what this is going to be like. Everyone says it’s just a blur for like 6 weeks. Six weeks is not a short amount of time. I mean, it is, but I imagine not when you’re in it. I know people have been doing this for thousands of years and there’s no reason why I can’t do it to. I keep trying to remind myself through positive talk that I am going to be a calm mom and that I can do this. It may be tough, but I will do this. Still scared.

I’m about 98% sure this baby is a boy. I’ve been pretty sure about it since 16 weeks, but we’ve now had three separate people involved with the medical care call the baby a ‘he’. This could just be the pronoun they use but I’m starting to have doubts about that. We saw a new doctor at the hospital yesterday because my doctor is on vacation until right before I deliver. We didn’t have a file on record at the hospital (not sure why my file wasn’t transferred over before my doctor left), so as the doctor was filling one in, he said something about how ‘he’ was doing referring to the baby. I mentioned that we don’t know sex still and the doctor said, ‘Okay then I will shut up’. I took it as he had just made a mistake and was now going to shut up. J says since we had no file, there is no way he could know if the baby is a boy, and he took what the doctor said as more of an ‘okay, I will be sure not to reveal anything’. The doctor used ‘they’ for the rest of the appointment. Either way, we’re going to be finding out pretty soon, so it doesn’t really matter but my gut says boy. We’ve struggled with a boy name a little bit more, so I’ve been overanalyzing our choice and have gone back and forth on it a lot. Ultimately, I think we’ll end up sticking with the name we originally picked out. We haven’t gotten the best reception towards it from family, but I can’t see him being named anything else. People will get used to it.

Physically, the baby is doing well. S/he weighs about 7.25 pounds and is destroying my bladder. The baby has not dropped into my pelvis still, giving free reign to do all kinds of moves and flips. The day before my appointment, I went to a midwife. She did an external exam and could swear the baby was head up. This wouldn’t be unusual since the baby has flipped once before and seems to really enjoy moving (they never stop). She said she felt the legs on the right side of my belly and felt the back on the left side. When we went to the ultrasound yesterday, the doctor said the baby was head down, the back was on my right side, and the legs were on my left. So either my midwife is really awful at determining body parts or the baby really is flipping around in there. Because the baby still hasn’t engaged, my cervix is still not doing anything. All of this is fine with me as I’m hoping it means I won’t go in to early labor. I’m pretty uncomfortable but nothing unusual. I still have difficulties falling asleep at night and walking is the worst. It feels like the painful need to pee even though I will have usually just peed before leaving the house. I walk insanely slow. Everything sweats when it’s hot and I hate being in the sun. I’ve been trying to fit in all the last minute appointments that I can. I’ve been to the dentist, gotten my eyebrows waxed, and cut my hair all this week. I figure I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to do it again. We finished all our baby classes last week which is great. I’m glad we did them, but it was not easy getting out to Brussels multiple times a week.

So that’s where I’m at now. Hoping the baby stays head down but that things stay closed up until at least my doctor comes back. Just can’t believe we’re this close to meeting the baby!

35 Years Old (but 36 weeks)

A year ago, I wrote a blog on my 34th birthday. I had started my period that day, after a very strong Clomid round that had resulted in two eggs. Having two eggs had given us some extra hope, but starting my period that 34th birthday day meant that we were officially going to be starting IVF come August. I cried a lot that birthday. I saw friends and had a nice dinner with family and it was a nice day overall, but in between being around people, I cried. Sure, I was hormonal, but I was also super bummed that day that we were officially out for that month. At the end of that post though, I ended it by saying, ‘I truly hope 34 will bring a similar joy that 33 brought. I’m looking forward to it.’

Thirty-four didn’t start out bringing me much joy at all. It’s been well documented in this blog that going back to Belgium after being home was hard and we struggled figuring out J’s visa situation and unemployment. Then I started all the drugs and they made me pretty insane. Then we retrieved our eggs, and got three good embryos, but I had OHSS so we had to wait a month to transfer one of them. Then I became even crazier when I started estrogen, but at least that meant we could transfer and we finally put a beautiful embryo in and I got pregnant. But then I lost the pregnancy as fast as I had it and we didn’t go meet my brother and sister-in-law in Munich for Oktoberfest because it was just too much. I got depressed and we waited ages to start another transfer. My sister announced her pregnancy and part of me died. By the time I was nearly five months into 34, I was considering it one of the worst years of my life.

But then halfway through November I found out I was pregnant. None of what had happened was erased but I found that I could forget and move on from those painful months of being 34. Fear and joy fought it out as we moved into winter, with joy overtaking fear as we had positive appointments, heard a heartbeat, got a due date, and watched our baby develop and grow. Joy took over the first time I felt my baby kick me on the train one random morning, and when I realized what hiccups felt like many weeks later. Joy remained when we bought our first baby items and when people celebrated our child at various baby showers. I even had joy when I would puke on sidewalks because puking was always going to be better than not having this baby. I’d say physically I’m relatively miserable these days, but joy remains because I am so close to meeting my baby.

Thirty-four started off so rough and there were days that I felt like the sadness would never leave me, where getting through a day took so much effort that I didn’t know how I could continue to be a functioning human. Some days were pure survival mode. But 34 will always be the year that I feel like I was part of something miraculous, the year that I finally was able to carry a baby. It has brought me more happiness than anything else and I have grown so much. It will always be one of my most favorite years now.

So, I’m 35 now and in a month, I’ll get to hold my first child. I have a feeling this is going to be my best year yet, and I’m so excited for it. It’s been real 34, but let’s do this, 35!

Come On.

It’s 4:26am. I’m awake, on the couch, watching Parks and Recreation on Amazon Prime which is my saving grace these days because I woke up with acid in my throat, which resulted in strong coughing, which made me throw up and pee myself. This part of pregnancy is possibly not my favorite. The acid reflux is real, as is being up all hours of the night most nights lately. That being said, I’m still not wishing baby out early. We are going to power through this for the next four weeks, damn it!

I’ll write it up later, but it was my 35th birthday yesterday, and it was an awesome day! Softens the blow of waking up with bile in my throat yet again. 😉

Getting Closer

My baby’s ears must be working well and heard all my pleas for a flip out of breech because this little monkey went head down! I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and I went to it fully expecting to be told baby was still breech. I thought I was still able to feel the head. As of two days ago, J was able to press on my belly and feel where the head was. As soon as I walked in to my doctor’s office, I announced that I was pretty sure we still had a breech situation. My doctor looked surprised, until I hopped on the table. As soon as he felt around my tummy, I asked him if he felt the head and he said no. The ultrasound verified that he was correct and the head was down towards my pelvis. So, I’m not good at telling a foot from a head I guess, but I also think the flip must have JUST happened in the last day or so. He was surprised I hadn’t felt it, but I didn’t feel the first one either. I think there’s some acrobatics going on while I’m asleep or something. Either way, I’m so relieved that I don’t have to stand on my head, or have a procedure done to try to flip, or have a scheduled c-section (for now anyways).

In other news, I mentioned that I’d been feeling really itchy, particularly on my stomach. This resulted in the second time that I’ve now seen my doctor get concerned. He came over to look at my tummy and remarked that I had red little bumps all over it. I hadn’t even noticed them, but I can see how my stomach looks blotchy. At first he wanted to me go to the hospital after I left the appointment to have blood work done to check for cholestasis. Cholestasis is a liver disease that only happens in pregnancy and can result in bad itching towards the end of pregnancy. It happens because the normal flow of bile is affected by the increased amounts of pregnancy hormones. It’s harmless to me, but can cause problems for the baby, and has increased rates of stillbirth. By the end of the appointment, since I’m coming back next week, he decided to wait until then to do the blood work. Usually in cases of cholestasis, they monitor the mom and the baby is usually born a couple weeks early. I’m not far enough that they would induce me now even if I do have it. I think likely I just have itchy skin and probably won’t come back as positive for this, but if I do, as long as they get the baby out healthy, than it is what it is. Otherwise, the baby is healthy and still smack in the average range! S/he is weighing 5.7 pounds which seems insane for 35 weeks, but is totally normal. We’re down to weekly appointments, and at our next one they’ll do a fetal monitoring for 30 minutes to make sure baby’s heartbeat and movements do what they are supposed to do.

I keep reflecting on that November 15th day when I called my doctor and he told me I was pregnant. I keep thinking about those long fall months of IVF and the miscarriage and the pain and then the joy when I found out I was pregnant. All the nights I prayed that this baby would stay, and all the nights I would meditate with the baby and ask them to please keep growing and stay healthy. And now we’re here, just weeks away from meeting this child and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. It’s really bittersweet for me. I’m excited to meet my child soon, but I’m also in no rush. I know I’ll never get to be pregnant for the first time ever again and any subsequent pregnancies will involve a toddler to chase after. While it has often been difficult, I enjoy being pregnant. I love feeling my baby move and wondering who they are. I’m a little sad that we are nearing the end of this really special time. I’m sure as soon as I hold this baby, all these feelings will disappear and I’ll just be so glad s/he is here safely. For now, I’m soaking up these last weeks and getting everything ready so that baby P can come when they’re ready. I wrote this note to myself on December 5th, when I was still very early pregnant:

I love my baby more than I think I’ve ever loved anything before. Sometimes it shocks me how much love I already feel.

Remember this.

It’s just as applicable now as it was then and it’s always a wonderful reminder of those early days and where I’m at now. The love was strong then and it’s so strong now. I’m so close to meeting my son or daughter. That’s pretty amazing.

Wrong Side Down Baby

My family often jokes that things tend to happen to me, or go wrong for me, more often than your average person (see post about a bird shitting on my leg on the way to school after I dropped my phone in the toilet as an example). It’s been like this my entire life and has shown no signs of stopping as I’ve gotten older. Things just seem to ‘happen’ to me. The baby may be taking after me in this regard.

We went for an appointment this week, just shy of 33 weeks. I’ve mentioned this before, but my doctor is one of the chillest people on this planet. I can say just about anything to him regarding a concern of mine and his response is almost always a general, ‘Yeah that’s fine’, or “Yeah, that’s normal, just sucks to be you that you have it’ (regarding nausea, puking, pelvic girdle pain, acid reflux, a bruised belly button from all the stretching and any other myriad of symptoms I’ve had this pregnancy). He almost never shows any concern, which is actually really good for someone like me who can lean towards the freak out side of things when it comes to this baby. We were in his office the other day and I brought out my list of questions like I do each appointment. One of my top questions was about cramps I was having. I figured they were Braxton Hicks but I had decided to ask anyways. He looked at me for a second and said Braxton Hicks should only be a tightening and that I shouldn’t feel any pain. I told him they often felt like period cramps which made him pause again. Finally he said it sounded like I was having contractions and that we needed to check my cervix to make sure I wasn’t showing signs of labor. I had to strip down to just my shirt, which is something I haven’t had to do in nearly nine months and as it turns out, hadn’t missed much. My doctor did the ultrasound first. He was down in my pelvis when I saw him measuring the leg bone. I found this a little perplexing as I thought my child’s head was there. When we had our last appointment, the baby was head down and my doctor told me that once the baby goes head down, it’s nearly guaranteed they will stay that way. I wasn’t sure why a leg was where the head should be, but decided I had no idea how the baby was curled up in me these days. He moved up my belly and was under my ribs when he said that he was measuring the baby’s head. That’s when I realized my child was no longer head down and half shrieked, ‘Are you telling me this baby has flipped and is now breech?’ which was met with a smirk and a confirmation that that was indeed what had happened. It’s a relatively small percentage of babies that are breech at 33 weeks and even less that go from head down into a breech position. And yet, here was my kid. I had texted my mom after our last appointment and had gleefully told her about our over-achieving baby who was already head down and she had written back ‘Until they somersault and flip around.’ I was so confident in that not happening that I had scoffed. When I called my mom that night, she cackled that she had been right. Also, the baby’s head was measuring at 35 weeks, causing my doctor to comment that our baby had a VERY round head. I said that the head had to come out of me which caused another smirk and a very concrete, ‘Yes.’

He checked my cervix next manually and at first remarked that my cervix was short but wanted to double check with the wand. I was going on a four day field trip the next day and he started asking questions about how much I was going to be on my feet and how far it was going to be. I think he was getting ready to bed rest my ass if my cervix wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. Fortunately, when he used the wand, my cervix was closed and totally normal so I was approved to go on the field trip but told to make sure I rest when needed. He put me back on progesterone suppositories to help with the contractions which I have not enjoyed. Between the wand check and the suppositories, I feel like I’m back in my fertility days. I’ve only had a few contractions since the appointment but if I rest they tend to go away.

We are currently hoping and praying the baby flips back down because if he/she is still breech at 38 weeks, I will be scheduled for a c-section at 39 weeks which I would love to avoid. I go back in a week and my doctor said if there is still a breech situation we can talk about trying to flip the baby. As of right now, the baby has been moving all around my tummy. S/he seemed to move towards the side of my belly so I thought they were moving head down, but now the head is back under my ribs again so they’ve migrated right back into breech. I’m just keeping my fingers and legs crossed that the baby goes head down and stays put until at least July 25th, but preferably longer.

My sister had her baby a couple weeks ago. She was in labor for like 3 hours and pushed for 10 minutes before the baby was born, which is nearly unheard of for a first time pregnancy. She also only had one small tear. As a result, it’s now a joke that I will likely be in labor for 36 hours (assuming the baby flips) and will probably tear to my asshole. Certainly I hope that isn’t the case, but little surprises me anymore!

Three-Fourths Down

I am 30 weeks pregnant! Holy hell, how did that happen? We’re about to hit single digits for weeks left and that’s bananas. We had a doctor appointment this week and the baby is smack in the average range. S/he is just under 3 pounds right now (2.86lbs) which is right where they should be. I am frequently told that I look ready to deliver, or asked if I’m sure I’m not having twins, but alas, I have ONE very regular child growing. Everything looked good though, which is always what we want to hear. Last appointment, I didn’t think I saw anything when the doctor went around the legs and this time I thought I saw a big ballsack (charming). I was starting to go back to calling the baby a ‘she’ when I talked about him/her, but now I’m once again back to not being sure. Also, I probably have no idea what I’m actually looking at anyways. The baby moves all the time and we’re able to really see big movements outside on my belly. S/he has moved head down, and my doctor said it’s unlikely that will change. I can tell the change in pressure when I’m moving now, especially if I have to pee (which seems to be all the time with the new change in position). I’m exhausted most of the time and can get cranky pretty easily, especially as the weather gets warmer. It makes it tougher to breathe comfortably, and that has caused some nasty anxiety issues. My doctor advised I breathe into a paper bag, which I wasn’t aware people were still doing, but I’m just going to continue to try to work through them as they pop up. If they get bad enough or more consistent, I’ll consider bringing out a paper bag.

We went to the UK this past weekend for a little get away and some shopping for the babe. We ended up buying a lot of clothes for newborn through 3 months, so I’m feeling better that the baby won’t be naked for the beginning of their life (like besides the birth). We also got lots of muslin cloths, enough newborn/size one diapers to get us through the first month, 720 wipes (how long does that last? A week? Two?), a couple bottles to try out, and nursing pads (the sexy aftermath of birth). While we’re no where near close to being done, we’re getting there. Also, the selection of gender neutral clothing kind of sucks. J and I discussed opening our own baby store with just gender neutral clothing, because we had a hard time getting clothes. Boy stuff leans more towards being gender friendly, so that’s primarily what we bought. Lots of grays and a few blues. We’ll pop a headband on the kid if it turns out I was mistaken about seeing balls.

We haven’t had any luck finding a new place yet. We did meet with our landlord, and it had nothing to do with me being pregnant. I guess they didn’t realize I was pregnant until the morning of the day we met. I happened to bump into our landlord as I was leaving work and that’s when he noticed my belly. He said they thought we only wanted to live here for a year and he promised the place to family. It’s still a huge bummer and looking for apartments SUCKS but I’m glad it wasn’t about the baby. They’re also willing to work with us on a move out date and will let us out a month early. This is definitely kind and helpful but I’m still dreading moving in my ninth month of pregnancy in the summer. I just hope we find something soon because it will be a huge weight and stress off us.

In other news, I had a very classic ‘me’ moment the other day that deserves to be memorialised in print. The other morning I was up super early because I had to buy lunch on my way to school. We had no food since we’d been in England for the long weekend and still hadn’t gone grocery shopping. I was getting ready to run out the door, because despite being up early, I was still about to run late. Something to know is that starting with Saturday evening, I started having trouble sleeping. I just couldn’t fall asleep and would like awake for hours after going to bed. By Tuesday morning, the morning this happened, I hadn’t had good sleep in almost four days. I was suuuuuper cranky (parenthood should be a breeze) when I woke up (also crankiness seems to go hand in hand with third trimester). Right before I dashed out, I decided to pee one more time because that’s all I do anymore. I ran into the bathroom, holding my phone in my hand. I went to put the phone on the ledge we have in there, and as I went to do that, somehow the phone flew out of my hand and landed directly into the toilet. It made the loudest noises ever as it crashed down, waking up J. I grabbed it out as fast as possible and J came running downstairs. We never have rice in the house, so I threw the phone into a bag of quinoa that I use for school, making a mental note to be sure to never prepare any more from that bag. J was sick and I knew sending him out to the store to buy rice was going to be a hassle for him so I decided to run to the corner store quickly and just buy some. I ran/walked my big pregnant ass down the street, grabbed some rice and got lunch while I was there. Racing (as much as I can race) back home, I threw the box of rice to J, tossed everything into my work bag and sped off, hoping that I had grabbed the phone out of the toilet quick enough to not have permanent damage. I managed to make the train still which was a feat in itself but I figured it was foreshadowing that the day was going to improve. I got to my stop and was walking from the train to school. I was right outside the school gates when I felt something hit my left leg. I didn’t think anything of it as I was walking under some trees and figured a branch fell and hit me. However, as I walked a few more steps, I was perturbed by why my leg was so warm. I wasn’t aware of falling branches being hot. I looked down and discovered a bird had just taken a MASSIVE shit on my leg. I was right outside the gates of school, where there are kids and parents everywhere and I really didn’t want to have to walk past everyone displaying my giant bird-shit leg. I took my school bag off my shoulder and awkwardly held it in front of my leg as I hobbled into the building, the shit seeping through my pants onto my leg. I frantically scrubbed at my pants with water when I got to school, resulting in an even more massive wet spot. The only upside was that I didn’t have a first period class so I was able to sit and stew, smelly, in my room until my pants dried. They still bore the remnants of the bird’s shit, but as I had no other clothes, I had no choice but to wear them all day. All of this happened before 8:15am. Fortunately, my phone works mainly as it did before it went swimming in the toilet and my pants have been washed.

So, about four more weeks until summer break and I literally can barely contain myself, I’m so ready for it. I’ve got a ton of work to do to get ready for maternity leave, but being done with school is a big milestone before the baby. I’m in no rush for the baby to get here but not having to get up early every morning (yes, I’m aware this is about to drastically change for forever) and haul myself up stairs all day long while finding the energy to plan and teach lessons will be really nice. The countdown has begun!

The Hormonal Mess

Holy 28 weeks. Welcome to the Emotional Express Train (or is this just me?). The other night I lay in bed crying and sent my husband this text:

I’m laying in bed crying bc the baby is kicking me and I love you so much and I’m so glad to share this amazing ness with you. #pregnanthormonalwife

J wrote back: Good Lord. I love you too. But good lord.

Good Lord indeed. Earlier in the day, I was telling J a story and I could tell he was starting to get anxious. Finally he said it was the speed at which I talked that made him feel on edge. This prompted an immediate onslaught of tears and I cried through our lunch to his continued ‘I’m sorry I said that. I didn’t mean it.’ I woke up the next day and went to school where I spent the day thinking of nothing I’d like more than to lock my door and cry. I didn’t even know what I’d be crying about other than I didn’t want to be at school and all my emotions seemed to be on overdrive. Perhaps it’s a combination of we’re being forced to find a new apartment and move, or my schedule being insanely overbooked at school, or being tired because a child is growing inside of me, or that I still missed my mom and my family, or possibly, all of the above. I’d likely be a mess with these things regardless of said child had all this happened last year but the pregnancy hormones and the fact that we are in the final stretch are likely amping them up. My hormones do not need amping, like, ever. That’s one area of my body that has always functioned far too well.

I googled ‘very emotional 28 weeks’ and all kinds of forums and baby chat stuff popped up. It appears I’m not alone in feeling this way which is always reassuring. The one thing that many things mentioned time and time again was to make sure I was talking about my feelings and not keeping them to myself. Sounds very familiar.

My sister called me last night in tears because her husband was heading out of town and would be gone a grand total of about 15 hours all said and done. She was sad he was leaving and missed him and didn’t want anything to happen to him. She needed me to talk her off the ledge as she walked down the Chicago streets a tearful pregnant mess (and reassured all passerbys that the crying pregnant stereotype is basically true). I told her how I had been doing the same thing lately which made her laugh and soon we were talking about how hormonal we were. Which is when I realized that all pregnant women are crazy and hormonal. It isn’t reserved just for me. And talking about it is hugely helpful because it makes you feel less crazy and less alone. J still thinks I’m batshit but whatever. He’s got months of crazy text messages to go.

This Life Stuff is Hard

We got some pretty tough news going into the weekend, which is both the worst and best time to receive shitty news. Good to have the time to process it without being at work but bad because come on, it’s the weekend and I’m trying to enjoy myself for the next two days, not deal with more shit. It ended up being good that J and I had the weekend to process things and it was honestly one of our better weekends.

Here’s what happened. We live in a one bedroom furnished apartment. We moved last summer because our old apartment was too expensive and we had terrible landlords. Our new place is small but it’s really beautifully furnished, is on the ground floor, and is super inexpensive. Our landlords are incredibly responsive and fix things immediately after they break. It’s also a one year lease, which is difficult to come by in Belgium. Leases tend to be 9 years long, and you pay a penalty to break them up until year 3. To break after one year would mean paying 3 months rent. WHO HAS THAT LYING AROUND?? All that to say, we kind of have the Holy Grail of Belgian apartments. When we found out we were expecting and started getting baby gear, we tossed around the idea of moving somewhere new to have more space. However, as job prospects remained slim for J, we figured we probably only had a year left in Belgium, and much of my maternity leave will likely be spent in the States. We will probably really only be in Belgium full time from January until June. Making a move just didn’t make sense. We didn’t want to uproot for the 4th time in 4 years, buy furniture that we would then have to try to get rid of, increase our monthly rent, or try to negotiate another one year lease. It made sense to stay put, and if things got cramped, we knew it would be temporary. Also, our lease ended July 31st and the baby is due July 25th. Trying to figure out a move would be tricky for that reason alone and we didn’t know if our landlords would be willing to let us out a month early without monetary penalty.

On Friday we learned we no longer had the option to stay in our place. I was in my classroom on one of the few minutes I had a break that day when the following email popped up.

Dear M and J,

We hope you are doing well?
Unfortunately, we, from our side, have to bring you perhaps no positive news.

Due to an unforeseen situation, we are obliged to maintain the end date of the signed 1 year contract, no extension can be granted. The rental contract will therefore end, as stipulated, on 31 July 2018. By that time we come together to take over the utility meters, check of the apartment (rental deposit) and return of the keys.

We wish to inform you clearly and honestly, a long time in advance and thank you for your cooperation.
You will receive this message also by registered letter (in Dutch).

Well dear landlords, we were doing well up until YOUR EMAIL. I could literally feel the panic start to rise in my chest as I texted J to check his email. A few seconds later a single ‘Damn’ came back. Luckily I have a close friend at work that I can talk to and went to her room where I cried through my lunch period (what a joyful lunch for her, no doubt). I felt awful for J who was processing this news by himself at home. We were both shocked and upset by the email as we really didn’t see this coming and we had a feeling the ‘unforeseen circumstance’ was our baby. All the problems with this swirled through my head. How would we find a place with a one year lease? Would we be able to find a furnished place again at a reasonable price? What if we have to buy furniture? That wasn’t in any kind of budget. What if they won’t let us out of the lease a month early? We literally can’t move July 31 as the baby is due July 25 and I could literally be in the hospital at that time. We can’t afford to pay double rent on places either if they won’t let us out. I’m going to have to search for a new apartment at the end of a school year and move in my ninth month of pregnancy? Are you kidding? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? Full freak out. We honestly debated if we should call it a day and move back home. J had also found out that week by talking to the government that him finding a job was basically a no-go here. That was already pretty depressing news and now we were being told come the end of July we were homeless. It really seemed like Belgium wanted us out. I think we both knew that moving home wasn’t really an option as we had no where to stay after the baby was born and we’d lose my maternity pay. For a moment there, though, it really seemed like it was our time to move on.

I talked with J and with my mom and we decided to ask our landlords to meet with us so we could discuss this in person. There isn’t a big language barrier as they both speak good English, but with all the lease negotiation we need to do, I didn’t want anything to get lost in translation. I think it is also harder to say no, particularly to a pregnant woman, when you’re sitting in front of her versus over a computer screen. We meet on Wednesday night, so for now, we are in a bit of a waiting game. I’ve been looking on the rental websites just to get an idea of what is out there. I’m not impressed at all with how this is being handled and the idea of moving again makes me sick. We’ll figure it out and we’ll get it done but the timing is terrible and it isn’t going to be fun. I keep telling myself it must be happening for a reason. Our current place wasn’t right for the baby. I have had to really work not to let the stress overtake me because it just isn’t healthy for the baby. Thank HEAVENS I talked to my therapist last week so that I am in a slightly better mental place than I would have otherwise been in.

After all this happened on Friday, J texted me later that afternoon and said he just needed a chill weekend. No surprise plans. We’d already had a birthday brunch for a friend planned for Saturday and going to a movie on Sunday, but I agreed that I wouldn’t schedule anything else. I ended up being a big liar. We laid low Friday, which was good. We were both exhausted and went to bed relatively early and slept pretty late on Saturday. We went to brunch and from brunch, a few of our friends wanted to go somewhere else and grab a drink so we tagged along. It was a really nice afternoon and we didn’t get home until after 6pm. We went grocery shopping from there and then spent the rest of evening at home. One of my co-workers and friends is 41 weeks pregnant with her first, so she had texted on Saturday asking if we wanted to get together with her and her husband. She and I thought the husbands would like each other. I caught J in a good enough mood to agree, so Sunday early afternoon we met them for coffee. It was great to talk to them about baby things and see her one more time before the baby shows up! We went directly from coffee to see Infinity Wars which made J’s entire life. After the movie, we went to our friends’ apartment and played a new game with them for an hour or so before going home to make dinner. It ended up being a busy weekend for us and it was perfect. I think it helped take our minds off the apartment stuff and didn’t let us wallow in it all weekend. It was a busy blessing in disguise.

We know we have a lot to figure out, especially after we have the meeting on Wednesday and I know neither of us are looking forward to it. I just have to keep trusting that this will work out the way it’s meant to and we will find the right place. I keep reminding myself that this will pass and it may be a stressful few months but we’ve made it through moving abroad right after marriage, unemployment, and infertility–all in less than 2 years of marriage. We can do this too.

In positive news, I felt my first baby hiccups this weekend! I’ve seen lots of girls talking about feeling them and wondered how they knew until I felt them. It was pretty fun. The baby is getting big enough now that they really poke out of my skin when they get to moving. We watched my tummy rolling yesterday and then a foot or a head popped up which was pretty incredible. I’m 28 weeks today and officially in the third trimester which is bananas. It’s also the second big viability milestone which is another reassurance. Still hoping they stick in there until early August, but glad to know if that wasn’t the case, they would likely be okay. I’m so grateful for this healthy child of ours. When everything else is falling apart, that is the one thing J and I go back to. If Belgium fails us in nearly all other aspects, at least we got our miracle baby here.

Honestly, it can just about fuck off otherwise. 🙂

The Loneliness of Having a Baby Abroad

I’m going to give birth to my first baby overseas. A very large ocean separates my husband and I from all of our family and friends. We weren’t taken here as hostages (well, maybe he was). It was a choice we made, and it’s proven to be something I continue to struggle with and find incredibly isolating at times.

Yesterday, my friend and colleague, Trish, told me she had received an email from my mom. Trish very kindly offered to throw a baby shower for me in late May. It was an incredibly kind gesture and I am grateful to her for offering to do so. The invitations went out late last week and I had asked her to send my mom one, just to keep her in the loop. I knew my mom couldn’t fly to Belgium for my baby shower but a little piece of me kind of hoped she’d magically figure out a way to surprise me. My sister is due the day after the shower, so obviously my mom is not going to be leaving the country, but she surprised me when my colleagues threw me a wedding shower in Nashville, so I just think a little bit of me held on to that. Her email to Trish thanked her for inviting her and thanked Trish for doing this for us but ultimately declined (duh). Trish popped in my room to tell me she had received it and even though I knew that was going to be my mom’s response, I felt this wave of sadness overtake me. I had a student in my room at the time, which is the only thing that stopped me from crying.

I wanted to live abroad. Lifelong dreams and all that jazz. We’ve been here a few months shy of two years. In many ways, it’s been a great adventure. In many other ways, its been a huge learning curve and really hard. Being pregnant and primarily alone has been much, much more difficult than I could have ever predicted. I never thought it would bother me as much as it does. Technology is a great thing, but it isn’t a replacement for having support in person. As the months have progressed, I find myself longing for the support of family and friends. I can tell my mom how big the baby and I are growing, and I can show her pictures. But she can’t see me in person, she can’t feel my baby kick, and she can’t give me a hug when the anxiety of having a baby sometimes kicks in. My mom isn’t able to help me organize our baby stuff, go shopping with me for outfits and furniture and all the baby things that I need that I don’t know I need. I rely heavily on internet baby lists and phoned words of advice. I’m insisting on birthing and parenting classes with J because we have no one to guide us once the baby is here. There won’t be anyone at the hospital once the baby is born. Maybe a couple friends will come visit, but likely, J and I will spend those five days solo with our new baby. My parents and grandparents won’t meet my child until s/he is around two months old. There won’t be parents driving to the hospital, helping me through birth, or sharing in those first brand new days. It’ll all be Skyped in moments. There will be no one to guide us through those first few weeks. We’ll be mainly on our own to figure it out. We’re capable adults, but these are the moments you wish you could share with those you love. These are the things that we really know nothing about and won’t have the help to figure out.

I don’t mean this to sound like a pity party. It probably sounds like I wanted my cake and to eat it too (which, who the fuck doesn’t? Cake is amazing). In some ways, I guess I do. I wanted to live here and now I want my family and I can’t have both. This is where the extreme isolation comes in. I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about feeling this way because I chose to live here and that’s the first thing people like to remind me of. Yes. I did. Totally get it. Turns out, you can make choices and still have things happen that make you long for the support you feel from people who get you. It results in me never talking to anyone about how I’m feeling and it sits in me. I end up feeling more lonely and more sad and more aware of how little of a support system we have here. I compare and I wish. The reality is, I’m scared to be a new mom. I’m insanely excited and I love my child with a fierceness that is both wonderful and terrifying. But I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing most of the time. Right now, I don’t have to do much except take a couple prenatals and get fat for a reason. This isn’t the hard part. What do I do when the baby is here? How will I know if they’re hungry? Cold? Hot? What do I dress them in? Can I use blankets in the crib? Bumpers are a big no-no right now, what else is? What if I can’t handle labor and J freaks out? What if I’m just not good enough? The thoughts and the questions and doubts play over and over again in a never-ending loop before I let the guilt for feeling this way steal the show.

I spoke to my therapist about it and she said I’m sitting on the beach and letting the waves of emotions just pummel over me, but instead of getting up and moving away, I keep sitting in them. She’s right. This is where I am struggling the most–in stopping these thoughts as they rampage through my mind. In allowing what other people say to me when I reach out to be true, when it isn’t. I’m allowed to feel scared, overwhelmed, and lonely. Every choice I make doesn’t have to be how my life must progress as a result. I don’t think we made a ‘bad’ choice moving here, but it has certainly proven to be much more difficult than either of us could have predicted. Having the opportunity to travel and see cool things doesn’t mean I can’t also feel sadness and loneliness. That was good for me to hear. When we were in Nashville, we had a big support system. We had a lot of friends, and family wasn’t ever too far away. I think when my thoughts got the best of me back there, I had a lot of people I could turn to that could help me shut those thoughts down or give me the reassurance that I was looking for. I don’t have that here and it is more difficult for me to shut my thoughts down on my own. They end up dominating my daily rhetoric until I’ve turned into an emotional, doubting, comparing, monster. It’s hard. Talking to someone was good and I’m making more of an effort to reach out to friends and say ‘I’m just having a hard time right now.’ I don’t know when I’ll feel better or more secure, but I am working on trying to use positive self-talk instead of all the ‘What am I doing?’ Most of us have no idea what we’re doing anyways, right?? All I can do is continue to grow–in this case, both mentally AND physically. 😉

Some days I feel like my heart might burst from how much I love this baby. It’s a crazy feeling, to love something so strongly that I haven’t met yet. We had an appointment last week at 25 weeks. Our baby is growing just as they should and everything still looks exactly as it should and good Lord are we lucky. A girl in my July due date group has already delivered her daughter, other moms have received news of things not looking how they should, and there are a number on bedrest trying to keep their littles in a bit longer. We are lucky that save for some sickness this has been a very healthy pregnancy so far. We’ve officially hit a viability stage, as of 24 weeks, which feels great but I’m obviously hoping this baby stays in as long as possible (I actually want to go over my due date). The baby weighs nearly two pounds now and I’ve had another growth spurt (I swear I just wake up one morning and all of sudden my belly just sticks out more). I’ve gotten a few new outfits and that helps a lot. It is also warming up here which has been AMAZING because I figured we’d have until May before nice weather and the sun has made such a difference.

We ‘officially’ announced the baby’s impending arrival on Facebook the day after Easter. I knew I would likely post something but I was on the fence about when and kept dragging my feet on it. I wanted to address infertility if I did post something because I know how hard it became to see pregnancy announcements after awhile, particularly this past fall. I didn’t want to cause someone who was struggling pain if I could try to avoid it, or at least share that I understood what it felt like to be in that place. I always gravitated towards announcements when they came after a struggle because they could provide some hope during what can be a pretty dark time. Our friends came to visit last week and we went to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. We were in Budapest on Easter day, and as we were walking around, we passed a giant egg decoration. My nickname among our Nashville friends is ‘Two Egg’ so one of our friends asked if I wanted to get a picture in front of the egg. It went from that to having J get in the picture and we decided to cheese it up by doing a prom pose. I liked the picture as it was very ‘us’ and realized this was probably as best an opportunity as I was going to get to announce. I spent the night writing and re-writing drafts of what I wanted to say. I’d already drafted a few things over the last five months, but I hated everything I wrote and just couldn’t get it right. I went to bed thinking I wasn’t going to post after all. I’d had J read over it and he cut a lot out (I can be pretty wordy). I wasn’t sure how I felt about that either, so I slept on it. When we woke up the next morning, I had a better idea of what I wanted to say and had two drafts. I had J re-read and pick his favorite and then showed it to our friends, and they all like the same one J liked. SO, when it was all said and done, it said:

‘It’s a day late BUT….
We are so EGG-cited and EGG-static to say that we are EGG-specting our first baby in late July (all the emojis)

On a slightly more serious note, 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility and we are part of that statistic. It took months of fertility medicine, a surgery, more blood work and ultrasounds than ever thought possible, and when none of that worked, moving onto IVF before we found out that we were expecting a baby–and naturally (talk about a surprise)! It was a hard road, but we are so grateful to be here now.
#babysweetegg #prompose #rainbowbaby’

It felt like it was short and sweet while also getting across that it hadn’t been easy to get where we are. It was also important for me to acknowledge the one we lost in September as I credit that baby for being why I was able to naturally conceive a month later and because that little one was also special. We received so much support and love. It was really incredible. So we’re public with our baby news!

I’m talking with my therapist from Nashville this upcoming week as I’ve had some emotions that I am struggling with and it’s been awhile since I’ve had a check-in. I’ve put off doing it just because it’s one more thing that costs money but mental health is important, especially as a pregnant person, and since my emotions can get the best of me without my hormones being nuts, it seems like checking in would be a good thing.

I haven’t thrown up in two whole weeks (although as I type this I’m feeling nauseous, but alas, it’s not puking). The baby has started moving a LOT more and even J can see when it’s going bananas in there. We watched him/her yesterday and my whole tummy was moving around. I can tell from the increased movement that he/she is getting bigger and stronger. I’m actively trying to work out 3 days a week and get some walks in on the weekends, especially as the weather continues to improve. It helps me feel better physically about myself. I’m still on the bigger side, at least belly-wise, for being 26 weeks pregnant I think, but I’m handling it a lot better (mostly I’m too tired to really care how big I am). Two people asked me last week when my last day of work was or whether I’d make it to the end of the school year, so informing them I wasn’t due until the end of July was interesting. My doctor seems to think I’m on track growth wise, so I’m not too worried about it. I did the glucose test this past appointment and should have results soon. I’m crossing my fingers I don’t have it but I am at a higher risk for gestational diabetes due to my PCOS. The drink wasn’t as terrible as many women would have had me believe in my support group. However, because I had heard so many horror stories about it, J and I were worried about how I would handle drinking it before a bus ride. We ultimately decided to get out to Brasschaat, the city where my doctor’s office is, an hour early so I could drink it without having to deal with any possible bus-induced nausea. I ended up being fine, and the only side effect I had was an upset tummy for a couple hours. When we have our next appointment, I’ll be a couple days shy of 30 weeks and that is INSANE. Time both flies by and creeps at the same time. I go through moments where it seems still so far away until I get to meet my baby and other moments where I just want to cherish this time with my growing baby because I know it’ll never be like this again and this really has been a pretty magical experience. ALL THE EMOTIONS ALL THE TIME.

Anyways, that’s where we’re at now. Doing well, enjoying the weather, and getting more excited for this little bean.