The Expat Bump Diaries: Week 28
Like a little dormouse laying down its snuggly bedding, at 28 weeks I am frantically nesting to get ready for Baby Number Two. I think this is largely because, as the third trimester begins, the prospect of what’s ahead is becoming increasingly and scarily real, and the only way I can handle this is to be as prepared as humanly possible.
My nesting has led to several heated debates with my husband over what equipment and furniture is needed for a second baby. Of course, we already have many things we need (and don’t really need) stored in the cellar, but my head has been spinning with thoughts of how on earth to manage certain situations with both a newborn and a toddler, and I’ve been trying to gather the things I hope will make this as simple as possible (wishful thinking)!
A double buggy, for example: we had a long debate over whether we really need one, as our daughter will be two and a quarter when the baby is born and may want to walk or perhaps could hop on and off a buggy board. However, I will be taking the kids out to walk our Labrador every day, and the prospect of trying to manage my daughter as she toddles off in every direction, and the dog as she storms off into the woodland – all while having the baby in a pram or strapped to me in a carrier – sends shivers down my spine. So after months of to-ing and fro-ing and considering what to buy, we’ve gone for a second-hand all-terrain double buggy.
Then there’s the Moses basket. Oh, the Moses basket! When our daughter was tiny, we spent many a night desperately trying to get her to sleep in the thing. We tried out every tool suggested by her grandparents, friends, Google searches and parenting forums – from warming the bedding with a hot water bottle to placing rolled up towels either side of her to make her feel snug, and white noise played so loud all night that visiting grandparents couldn’t sleep in the next room (we were too exhausted to mind the sound). We often ended up bringing her into our bed just to get some sleep, but I found this enormously uncomfortable. Not only did I end up locked in one position, as I was too petrified to move in case I woke her, but I also spent many winter nights freezing cold as I pushed the duvet down to cover only my legs so it wouldn’t overheat the baby. So this time around we have bought a co-sleeping cot, and I’m hoping and praying that Baby Number Two will settle in there, snuggled close to me but not in our bed, and not wake our toddler too often!
Otherwise nesting has largely been contained to a corner of our guest/dressing room, where I have put a second-hand changing table, a nappy bin and a small chest of drawers. I feel guilty that when our firstborn was brought home to our house in the UK, she had a freshly decorated nursery with a pretty tree adorning the wall, a cot and nursery furniture standing at the ready, and a cute mobile hanging from the ceiling; while Baby Number Two just has a very practical corner in the guest room nestled amongst all my clothes. Oh the joys of being the second child!
As well as nesting I’m also starting to make plans for delivering the baby at our local hospital. At 26 weeks I had a check-up with my gynaecologist and asked her about one of the key things that was worrying me about having a baby in Switzerland – pain relief. When I had our daughter in the UK I used a TENS machine during early labour (a portable device that sends tiny electrical pulses into the nerves in your back to block the pain of the contractions from reaching the brain) and Entonox (“gas and air,” or nitrous oxide plus oxygen). Other expat mums had warned me that neither of these is regularly used in Switzerland, and hospitals often don’t have gas and air available at all. Having been through labour once before without any more invasive pain relief, the idea of not having gas and air at my fingertips if and when the pain gets to be too much deeply concerned me. Thankfully, my gynaecologist answered that the hospital I plan to deliver in does have gas and air readily available on the ward (this brought a huge sigh of relief from me that nearly blew away all my paperwork).
I’m also looking into booking midwife care for the delivery and post-birth. I’m still trying to get my head around the Swiss system of choosing practitioners, something you don’t have to do in the UK, as you tend to automatically be cared for by the community midwife team pre- and post-birth and by whomever is on shift at hospital when you go into labour. In Switzerland, my gynaecologist said you can either choose to use the on-call midwife at the hospital or you can hire a Beleghebamme (shortened to Beleg), an external midwife you meet before the birth and who is called in when you go into labour. Whichever you choose for the delivery, if you want a midwife to visit you in the days after you go home from hospital to check on you and the new baby and provide support, you need to book one (called a Nachsorgehebamme in German).
I’m still debating whether I want to hire a Beleg. I can see the value of being able to discuss your birth plan with her beforehand and of having consistent care, plus it may be a good way of ensuring the midwife helping me through the labour speaks good English, but I’m not sure whether it is worth the hassle of researching and setting this up. If any readers have personal experience of this, I’d love to hear your views.
Alongside the practicalities of planning pain relief and medical care for the delivery, I’m trying to remind myself of the tools I used to get through labour last time. When I had our firstborn, my husband and I had just done a three-month evening class for parents-to-be, so all the advice, breathing techniques and birthing positions were fresh in our minds. That was more than two years ago and my memory is like a sieve, so I’m reading a hypno-birthing book to refresh my knowledge. I’ve also joined a prenatal yoga class, both to help with the aches and pains of pregnancy and to practice breathing techniques to help during labour. The classes are great for stretching out my tired body and it has been nice to get a bit of “me” time to clear my head and bond with the baby, who I forget is in there half the time, being so busy with our daughter and the daily routine of housework, dog walking, shopping, cooking, and so on.
Aches and pains, particularly in my lower back, are the biggest discomfort I have now that I’m in the third trimester, alongside restless leg syndrome, which has my limbs hopping around all over the place nightly, making it really tough to sleep. The endless trips to the loo also continue, and my husband has come up with the word “wangry” for when I am angry because I am desperate for a wee. On the positive side, though, my second test for gestational diabetes at 26 weeks was all clear, so I don’t have to go on a strict diet and prick my finger to test my blood four times a day. My gynaecologist will keep an eye out for any signs of this developing later in the pregnancy though, including measuring the size of the baby’s belly and checking the quantity of amniotic fluid at each scan, and looking out for sugar in urine samples.
I’ve just had the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine from my family doctor (see my previous column on this issue) and I’ve booked in to have a flu shot at my husband’s work as they are offering free vaccinations. We decided to also get our toddler vaccinated against the flu as she’ll be mixing with other children every week and we’ll have a newborn during flu season.
Our daughter has recently started at a playgroup (Spielgruppe), as we wanted her to be well settled in before the baby arrives. I’m so proud of how she has embraced it after two years constantly at home with me. I have to fight away a pang of motherly jealousy now when she is barely worried about me dropping her off and gives the lady who runs the group a cuddle when she leaves! I’m so glad she has settled in well, though, and I know that, with all the children to play with and activities they do, she’ll enjoy going three mornings a week when I’m focused on breastfeeding and changing Baby Number Two’s nappies.
Finally, at week 28, here’s the usual update on the cost of my medical care in this pregnancy so far: 2,277 CHF (1,784 CHF without medications).
By Laura Hollis
Laura is a journalist from the UK who is now living in Richterswil on Lake Zurich. Her daughter was born in October 2014, and Baby Number Two is due in January 2017. Laura helps run Wadi Angels Playgroup and leads Hummingbirds Toddler Music Group. Email: email@example.com.
Photo by Samuel Hollis
The fifth installment of Expat Bump is available here.