I thought I would include an update on Baby E, as this pregnancy seems to be flying by! At 21 weeks today, baby is the size of a canteloupe (according to my weekly updates from babycenter.ca) and weighs just about a pound.
Being pregnant in four different countries has been an interesting adventure in itself and I thought I would shed a bit of light on some interesting practices i've come accross so far:
Weeks 1 to 8: France
When I suspected I was pregnant, I called the local hospital to make an appointment to confirm it. Luckily my french class had covered this exact scenario and so I used my limited vocab to set up an appointment for the following week. I managed to write down the directions that the secretary gave me and made a mental note that it seemed like a lot of steps to go through before actually seeing the doctor. I arrived at the hospital and was able to find the administration building relatively quickly. After a few failed attempts, I finally ended up in the right line-up and waited with about 20 others to register. When it was my turn, I was hoping for an english-speaker. Nope, no luck. Luckily I can give someone my particulars (name, birthdate, address, phone number) in french without much trouble. The secretary handed me a few sheets of paper and sent me off. Then I had to find the gynaecology building. Easier said than done when there is no signage. Finally there, I waited in another waiting room line up to speak with the secretary there. Still no english. I communicated that I had an appointment and was directed to another line up outside some some offices. At this time P had met me there, and after waiting for almost an hour, he asked the nurse for more info. It turned out that we had to wait for the one gyno who was on staff today, and he was currently called to do a C-section. There were also three women ahead of us. They told us the wait would be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. We LOVE French efficiency! I made up my mind then NOT to sign up with an OB in the hospital because I knew that I couldnt manage this every time. Once we got in to see him, I was a bit unnerved. He was just a little bit older than us, dischevled, with dark red bloodshot eyes. He looked like he had been awake for three days. He asked me in french for the purpose of my visit, and I started out with my rehearsed " je pense que je suis ensante..." and his first question to me was "Est-ce que vous voulez le grossesse?" (do you want this pregnancy?") I burst into a stream of "oui!!!"s while P was trying to figure out what "grossesse" meant. Realizing that my lack of French could have made this appointment go terribly wrong was really unsettling to me. Anyways, after we had gotten passed that, we had an echography and actually saw the tiiiiny baby (really just a speck) and even heard the heartbeat! It was exciting and thrilling! The doctor sent us off with a prescription for an anti-nausea (i wasn't even sick yet), a pain reliever, and an antibiotic (for just in case. WHAT?). I took the prescriptions without any intention of filling them, and away we went to the payment building to pay up. Before we left, the secretary told me my due date would be December 7, 2011.
I spent the last few weeks in France sick as a dog, surviving only on rice crackers, tea biscuits and cereal; I slept about 20 hours per day.
Week 9 to 12: Vancouver
I went to my family doctor in Vancouver to fill her in on the pregnancy and to see what she had to say in terms of prenatal care. I had a few questions and I was ecstatic to speak with someone in English. The appointment was the standard 15 minutes, and after congratulating me, my doctor told me to be sure to take prenatal vitamins (me: "anything specific?", her: "no, just grab one from the drug store") and gave me a referral for a dating ultrasound. She told me there was nothing else to do until 20 weeks, so good luck. And off I went.
Tiff and I went to my ultrasound appointment at about 9 weeks and saw the tiny jelly bean with arms and legs doing a little dance. The technician told me the due date would be November 29th, 2011.
I spent the next few weeks in Vancouver relaxing, seeing my acupuncturist, and eating homecooked meals! I also had a strange obsession with mangoes and ate about 2 a day for the duration of my visit.
Week 12 to 18: Singapore
After a few weeks in Singapore, I thought I should check up on how the baby was progressing. I made an appointment at the University hospital nearby and went in for my visit. The maternity wing was brand spanking new and it looked like I was about to enter a spa. The reception area had a long tall desk with attendants behind it in matching lavender suits with scarves around their necks. It looked like a hotel lobby employed by airline hostesses. I checked in at the desk and was given a stick to pee on, and a post-partum depression checklist to fill out (do I cry everyday, am i feeling hopeless etc.) I was told that I would be given the pee stick and the checklist every time I came in in order to compare my results each time. The receptionist also gave me about 4 forms describing their prenatal "packages" with their fees and information about birth in the hospital (what to bring etc). I explained twice that I was only here for a visit and I was leaving Singapore in a matter of weeks, but was given the same answer each time (I must give you these forms, it's protocol). Ah, Singapore. After I was "checked in", I waited in the waiting area and read a few of the magazines there that advertised magic potions for baby brain development and preschools that start in infancy to help your child get ahead. When it was my turn, the doctor took a brief medical history, checked my blood pressure and the baby's heartbeat. When I asked some questions, she told me to make an appointment with a GP, and gave me a prescription for a specific prenatal vitamin that was sure to make my baby a astro-physicist ("it's like being breast-fed in the womb"). I thanked her, and returned to the reception desk to pay.
My seven weeks in Singapore involved near-daily swims in our pool, thesis-writing, and lots and lots of dim sum. I was having a hard time eating in Singapore as I have had a major meat aversion almost the whole pregnancy and the only thing that seemed to help was dumplings! So dumplings it was! Apart from the continuing mango obsession, I was worried about my diet very generally as most of the food we were eating was pre-prepared chinese and malaysian food at the hawker stands and food courts around town (how much msg is too much msg?!?!). Cooking in our apartment was harder than hoped, as tiny little ants seemed to appear out of nowhere as soon as food turned up on a counter. I ate lots of basics that could be safely kept in the fridge (yogurt, cheese and crackers, fruit, cereal etc) and relied on some tried and true nearby cafes for the rest (a soup and salad bar, sushi etc).
Week 19 to 21: Germany
I had done some research while in Singapore about prenatal options in Germany and discovered that since we are now covered by health insurance (hurray!!!!), I can see a midwife and a gynaecologist every two weeks if I want to! I researched a few offices, and found a midwife practice within walking distance from our apartment. I had set up an appointment with a German midwife for our first week in Berlin, so when we arrived in Berlin, I gave her a call. The phone rang quite a few times and when my midwife answered, she sounded a bit out of breath. She apologized and told me that she was in the countryside picking berries! Immediatly I thought, this is perfect! Our first visit was an hour and a half long. She made me hot chocolate and we chatted about pregnancy and birth, Berlin, my thesis. She measured my belly, checked my blood pressure and the baby's heart rate and she gave me a referral for my 20-week ultrasound. It was brilliant! I also received my "mutterpass" which is a little booklet I have to carry around at all times with my health info and my midwife/doctor's info to all of my appointments so that I am literally carrying my medical records for every provider to see and add to. I thought this was very smart.
So a few days ago, P and I went to the gynaecologist for an ultrasound. We were both nervous to see how everything was progressing, and I was extremely excited to find out the sex (P doesn't want to know)! After a mix-up with some insurance paperwork (contrary to popular belief, German beaurocracy isn't any more efficient than the French!), the doctor (who spoke perfect English) whisked us in for our appointment. She chatted away happily, telling us how she had lived in Winnepeg and hated it, and how horrible the prairies are. Finally, she set up the ultrasound and we saw the baby - now actually the shape of a real baby - and P left the room briefly so she could tell me the sex. She checked and measured it and determining it healthy, we were on our way.
I seem to have grown exponentially here in Germany. It is most likely due to the fact that the baby has doubled in size over the last three weeks, but I also can't help but contribute it to the healthy and fresh food here! All of our meat, milk and eggs are organic and the fruit and veggies are so fresh! Now that I finally have a full kitchen, I have been cooking like crazy and I'm feeling great!
I tried to take a picture of my belly by myself because we never seem to get around to it but it didnt work so well. Eventually P came home and could help me! I also decided to wear white for the second picture because everyone was commenting that I was too small! I think the white really emphasizes the bump nicely! We took the pictures yesterday, at exactly the 21-week mark.