There is never a right time to make an announcement as there is probably never a right time to have a baby, at least in the opinion of my hubby and me. Which is why we have always found reasons for prioritizing other things in life that were seemingly more important.
But life happens when you are busy making other plans. And so, it turns out that we will be welcoming a little baby boy into our life towards the end of this year. Woohoo… What was a major surprise that especially I had to get used to first (initially thinking that my life will be over), now appears to be the greatest gift and something we absolutely look forward to.
I am grateful that I was able to enjoy an entire year of fun, exploration and growth for myself, before priorities will rightfully shift with the beginning of the new year (I virtually see all moms nodding their heads).
Word of caution to my reader: You may want to stock up on snacks and drinks as this post is more on the loooooonger end. 😊
How it is being pregnant in another country
When we started sharing the big news with family, friends and colleagues, quite a few people asked if we would now be returning home prematurely – a thought that has never crossed our minds.
The US is not a third-world country where one would need to have any reason for concern about carrying or delivering a child. Yes, some things are not like at home, and it is down to every individual to decide if that means better or worse, or simply just different. I chose to approach this new adventure with curiosity and am more than confident that I am in good hands even when abroad.
To this date, my pregnancy was very uneventful, and putting the nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester aside, considerably easy and relaxed. I did not have any unusual cravings, no pains, no significant weight gain, no flu, no cold, no major symptoms other than what would be regarded normal business.
Our baby is certainly benefitting from me not working and I consider it a great gift that I am able to completely shape my pregnancy the way I want, without the stress of a fulltime job (kudos to all working moms and moms-to-be!!).
I can sleep in, nap in the middle of the day, find time to exercise 10 or more hours each week (lightly though), am very conscious about what I eat, and I listen to my body and what it needs at every moment in time. This is luxurious and perhaps one of the reasons why everything is running so smoothly.
Doctor, hospital and some extra support
Thanks to Yelp, I quickly found a doctor specialized in pregnancy and birth (called Obstetrician or short ‘OB’) and have not regretted my choice ever since. While he is way passed my own age and hopefully in good health so he makes it until my due date, he is full of humor, has a great sense of calm and takes things very seriously when it comes to watching out for me and the baby’s health.
He wears an apple watch and is – believe it or not – available for any patient query 24 hours a day. I have taken advantage of that offer twice and found it extremely helpful not having to call the office or wait for a day or longer with a seemingly pressing issue.
Even in the US it is very unusual for a doctor to pass his number on to patients, so I guess I am lucky. Yet, it is very reassuring that in a period that is full of uncertainties, I can always reach out and get a response within 15 minutes at max.
It is common in the US for your assigned doctor to be the one who delivers your child (if you choose to do so in a hospital setting), which is different from Germany, where mostly midwives would do that. In case a doctor is required, you would typically not know them in advance.
Here, the doctor you pick also determines the hospital you deliver your child at, so if you wish to be admitted to a specific facility, you need to make sure that this is where your doctor is contracted. My doctor is practicing at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, which was my first choice because it is the hospital that is featured in one of my favorite TV shows – Chicago Med. 😊
Compared to what I know from and experienced in Germany, I find the health system here to be slightly more flexible and geared towards the satisfaction of the patient. Never even once did I have the feeling that I was just a number on a patient file.
I can make appointments from one week to the next and hardly ever have to wait when I arrive at the doctor’s 70s style office. Nurses and doctors kindly greet me by first name and are genuinely interested in how things are going, not worrying about how much time my questions might consume. I get scans whenever I or the doctor deem them necessary (so I often get to see how baby is doing) and when touring the hospital, the philosophy of ‘mom and baby first’ really become apparent.
Since in the US there is no routine where moms would look for a midwife who then partners with them prior, sometimes during and certainly after birth, hubby and I decided to hire a so-called post-partum doula.
A doula is a midwife, a nanny, a housekeeper, a meal prepper and maybe even shoulder to cry on for mom, all in one person. With family being a thousand miles away, we felt that we needed to get us a little bit of extra support during those first intense days and weeks and a doula seemed to be the perfect solution.
Many women in the US create a birth plan, in which they describe how they wish to deliver their child. A birth plan is a written document that contains detail about any medication women wish to receive or not, the atmosphere under which they plan to have their baby (music, scent, light), any procedures or interventions they have an opinion about and how they wish to spend time with baby during those first precious moments.
While I find it empowering for women to put their wishes into a plan and by doing so convey their desires as clearly as possible before things get too crazy under labor or in the operating room, it is not something I feel is necessary for me.
Nutritional challenges … or not
Shortly after I had found out that I was expecting, one of my biggest concerns was whether I needed to adjust my diet. This first phase of panic – where lettuce, cheese, fish, coffee and whatever else seemed completely off-limits – was followed by a more pragmatic view. I decided to continue with my already healthy nutrition and made only minor adjustments.
I am not suggesting for anyone to adopt the same approach, but I do eat feta and mozzarella as long as it is made of pasteurized milk, have my close to daily shot of espresso (do not tell my doctor!), continue to enjoy salads and only skip the more obvious items such as raw fish, alcohol and too much sugar.
As a couple, we also changed our regular habit of eating out and instead prepare most of our dinners ourselves. I noticed that some of the restaurant food was too heavy on my stomach and often gave me heartburn, so cooking became the new default.
I pay attention for my nutrition to be as varied as possible, as I believe that this can help baby develop a broader taste and hopefully not end up being too picky about his food choices (we shall see). He gets to try all sorts of different cuisines, spices, fruit, vegetables, fish and beef and even sushi if it is vegetarian.
Exercising with some adjustments
I also continued with my exercise regimen and adjusted it along the way to account for the changes in my body. Running turned into walking, yoga poses that could put pressure on the baby where replaced, the weights I lifted were cut in half and Pilates level 1.5 became Pilates level 1.
I still get up at 7 every weekday morning to complete my one and a half hours of workout before starting my day and find that this helps me remain active and energetic even on days where the exhaustion hits in (and there are quite a few of them).
Something I was quite uncertain about and where I noticed that even my Pilates instructors were a bit clueless, was how I was supposed to continue to train my abdominal muscles. Even if you stay away from isolated abs training altogether, you cannot avoid that your abdominals are being affected from your workout, let alone any move you make during the day. They simply form your core and can hardly be avoided, no matter what type of sports you perform.
This is important, because there is a high risk for a so-called ‘diastasis recti’, which is the formal term for ‘separated abdominals’ or ‘mummy tummy’ (also referred to as ‘pooch’). What happens is that due to the continuing growth of the baby, the front muscle strings (that some of you show as six packs, I certainly don’t) can no longer sustain the increasing pressure, they loosen up and move apart from another.
If you also keep strengthening those muscles during pregnancy, the pressure becomes even bigger and chances are high that your abs will separate. This is less a concern during pregnancy than afterwards, because in many cases, these muscles will not grow back together by themselves after delivery. They may leave a nasty bulge on your tummy as your organs have no more push back from the muscle tissue.
One way to prevent this condition from happening or worsening is to instead strengthen the deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominals), which help us breathe and compress our organs. This can be done throughout the entire pregnancy and beyond, with very good chances of success.
I consulted a physical therapist, who is specialized in women’s health and demonstrated the proper execution of exercises. As part of my extensive research on this topic, I also came across a great app called ‘Every Mother’, which offers a full-blown exercise program especially tailored to moms and moms-to-be. Check it out if you are interested, even if your last pregnancy is already years ago.
What to wear
It was a bit challenging to locate workout clothes that would accompany me throughout the nine months without bursting. Thanks to ASOS and Lululemon, I now own a few nice pairs of tights and shirts that are flexible enough to grow with me and still look decent.
It was equally challenging to find any sort of maternity clothing in store here in Chicago. I quickly learned that many stores had disassembled their maternity sections with the result that US-based moms-to-be shop solely online.
This is also what I ended up doing due to the lack of alternatives. I eventually found my three brands which got me through the many months with a growing womb: H&M for all the basics, ASOS for affordable yet classy year-around maternity clothing, Seraphine for some high-end pieces.
I also occasionally dig through hubby’s closet for T-Shirts, Sweats, and sometimes even jackets. He is a little worried though that I might stretch them a bit too much. 😊
For something as life changing as a baby, one can probably never really be prepared or feel completely ready. We started very late in setting up the nursery and even to this date have only gotten around purchasing a baby cart, a car seat and a changing table (at least we can move baby around and change diapers).
There are still a few weeks to go and since I am planning to put most of my activities on hold from the beginning of November (I call it my maternity leave), I will certainly also find time (and joy) to shop for baby. Amazon will become my best friend on this journey.
Despite the physical set-up of the equipment, we are entering this new chapter in our lives with a strong confidence in our intuitive senses as not much reading has been going on. I downloaded the ‘What to expect’ App and I believe hubby read one book and kept me informed.
But that is pretty much it. Besides a very informative (and graphic!) childbirth education class, we have no clue what we are getting ourselves into. But we are sure we will soon find out.
As I am writing this post, hubby is in the air heading for his final business trip to Germany for the year. This will give me more room in bed, a break from cooking dinner and the outlook to a small selection of some of my favorite German-typical Xmas sweets (to all my German followers: Marzipankartoffeln, Dominosteine, Blaetterkrokant at a very minium).
Let us just keep our fingers crossed that baby stays equally patient until hubby returns.