The one where we found out

(Foreword: I wrote a few articles and saved them on my phone early on in my pregnancy as I had wanted them to be published after I had told everyone important in my life. Sadly it didn’t quite have an ending that I had wished for. Nonetheless it was an exciting moment finding out I was pregnant so I thought I’d share this nonetheless.)

That’s right. I can finally say it. I’m starting to realize I haven’t had much experience with this, not because people around me haven’t been pregnant, but it just isn’t the topic to talk about.

I mean the first question is: what would ever make you say “hmm you know what, I may be pregnant, let me get a pregnancy test to have a look.”

Most people just tell you the news (when they’re ready) and you congratulate them and forget the anxiety before.

I had suspected it for a couple of days because my intuition told me my body was changing. I googled symptoms, I looked up possibilities. And a few days later, I announced my suspicion to H. And a couple of days after that I told him I would get a test.

I remember we were about to have breakfast while I had already made a run to the drugstore to get a pregnancy test. I proceeded to have tons of water during breakfast. And then I happily announced I was going to pee, after we had already discussed at length the multiple ways of collecting pee. Anyhow.

Then I announced that the job was done, and the test began. And then I asked him to come in.

We both stared at the pee-stained stick. I saw a clear second line, he said it was too faint to see. And as we let it rest, the second line got darker and darker – so we couldn’t ignore it anymore.

H was surprised. He hadn’t quite believed my suspicions but he had assured me again and again that it would be fantastic if we were pregnant.

I was unsure. I always knew I wanted to have kids, and when I was young, I always wanted to be a young mum. But then I just got older and older and never felt like the moment was the right time.

There we were with a positive test. H hugged me and I was in tears, shocked and unsure of what to do next. My first instinct was to say, “Let’s get a second one just to be safe!”

I got the second one, it was also positive.

A day later after I had gotten rid of the shock, it was all about reading up on how to determine how far along you are, when to tell your friends and family (it’s the absolute hardest thing to keep this a secret!!!), what to look out for, etc.

And as you read about early pregnancy you also read about what to do and what not to do, what to eat and what to eat less of. I remember thinking, now that I’m pregnant, I want to remain pregnant. And I tried to incorporate the rules into my lifestyle as much as possible.

And now player 3 is the size of a…

Advertisements

I’ve got something to say

I was recently pregnant.

“Was” being the keyword there.

I spent my first day, upon finding out I was pregnant, shocked. It was rather planned but it still came as a shock. And I discovered really early on (about 3 weeks in).

After the shock was over, I was thrilled. Excited. Overjoyed. I spent my days planning my pregnancy, realizing all the concert plans I had would get harder and harder to mosh, and weddings I would attend late summer would mean new dresses needed.

H was happy from the start. He didn’t believe me when I said I “felt” pregnant, but the moment it was confirmed, he was happy. But as the guy in such a situation, it was tough for him to really feel like we were expecting. So he came with me to some gynae visits. We subscribed to babycenter weekly newsletters to imagine how the little one was developing in me.

I couldn’t hold it in for long. I told my yoga teachers at 6 weeks. I told my closest friends at around 10 weeks. I told my colleagues at 12 weeks. I even told the waiter at my favorite restaurant. I was bursting with excitement. A little one was growing in me! We were going to share our lives with it!

At 14.5 weeks I had a routine gynae visit, which was met with a dreadful silence from a usually talkative gynae. He couldn’t tell what the problem was, but the amniotic fluid level was suspiciously low. He referred us to a prenatal specialist. He called them up and requested for an appointment as soon as possible – while we sat in front of him. Dreadful would be the adjective I would use here.

At 15.5 weeks, we went to the specialist. He explained that amniotic fluid is produced by the mother in the beginning, and by the child later on. Low amniotic fluid meant bad kidneys. He later said he couldn’t find any kidneys from our little one in the scans.

How could that even happen?

What does that even mean?

No kidneys meant the little one wasn’t going to live. It was a matter of days, weeks or months. It could even miraculously survive till birth and then go straight into palliative care. What do you want to do?

I couldn’t handle the idea of ending my little one’s life in the beginning. It brought us so much joy and excitement. I was growing with it, and I was imagining it growing in me. And I now and then wondered if I felt its heartbeat or movements.

We were given a week to think it through. We asked to see a psychologist.

At 16.5 weeks we met one. I told her I could rationally imagine it’s the right decision but I felt like a terrible mum. She told us to think about how to make peace with it, to talk to the child and explain the situation.

So we did. We cried, explained to my belly, wrote farewell notes, cried.

At 17 weeks we had an appointment with the hospital. The thing is:

  1. Everybody seems to know someone who went through a miscarriage but nobody talks about it.
  2. Everybody has an equally terrible reason for their miscarriage.
  3. No mum would willingly give up their growing foetus.
  4. I don’t know how planned miscarriages take place before 12 weeks but after 12 weeks you have to have induced labour.
  5. Anyone who’s had labour would like to have it acknowledged that they’ve been through labour and gave birth to their little one (dead or alive) and was/is a mum.

I had an induced labour and gave birth to my little boy.

We laid there, happy as can be that we met him and that we got to admire him from top to toe, but sad that we had to do this, that it was way too soon, that he had no chances of living.

He was born on 22 June.

Between two homes

I recently went home for a couple of weeks recently.

It’s a bit odd having moved away from Singapore – where I grew up, went to school, studied and worked at – for almost five years now.

You’d think that I would feel like a foreigner when I visit my original home once a year. Many tell me about a “new” building that was already there before I left. That’s how long it felt like I’ve been gone perhaps. Because of that, I put in an extra effort to be as local as possible while I’m there.

Any cultural differences that H points out, I simply brush aside now and the obvious, almost as de facto and everything he knew was weird. I would punctuate my sentences a little more frequently with Singlish, speak in Mandarin with the coffee shop owners, just simply try to fit in.

Actually, I do that while I’m back in Berlin too. I insist in speaking German even though the waiter might’ve taken one look at my face and switched to English. I can’t even remember having ever spoken in English to his best friends – although I had met them before I even started learning German.

I have a strong need to feel a local in both homes.

But the fact that the two homes are so vastly different means that with a simple act of taking a flight back to Berlin, I suddenly didn’t feel like I could cope with the change. It felt a little like my body had arrived but my brain hadn’t.

These old buildings, the ice cold wintery days, the wind and the woods. It was a big change from one to the next.

I guess I’m going to need to start accepting the fact that I will always be a little bit local and a little bit foreign in both countries.

The power of women

Recently I attended a conference for women in the IT industry.

In my (skeptical) colleague’s words, it was like a women-shall-rule-the-universe gathering. Except it wasn’t.

Just shortly before that, the first female referee took the lead in a Bundesliga match, which made me extremely proud. I felt the significance of this monumental event was a little like having a first female president.

And I do have our (first) female president in my home country, and a female chancellor in my residential country.

So are women ruling the world?

Probably not. The world isn’t quite ready for this amount of female leaders yet. But whose fault is it, really?

I’m inclined to think that us women have it too hard on ourselves. Men are generally innocent. But women – we put these double standards on ourselves.

We judge when a mum goes to work while the child is young. We judge when our sons marry a girl who can’t cook. We judge when our female colleagues fail to stand up for themselves in a male-dominated arena.

But it’s up to us to change this.

I think in our current state of feminism, we may be overdoing it. We may be trying to become men, rather than embrace our strengths.

We forget that the stroke and elegance of a ballerina is sign of strength and control. We forget that our emotional intelligence leads us in the right way in crises. We forget that we can be pretty damn smart, without having to try to prove ourselves all the time.

So women, what I’m trying to say is: Believe in your strengths. They don’t have to look like men’s strengths and it’s also okay!

And stop judging other women.

Moshing with the flow

I was in a reggae-ska-concert in Berlin recently. I hadn’t expected it and we stood quite close to the front in this small bar, which I later learnt was the mosh pit.

Sometimes human’s idea of a safety zone is quite a strange concept. I have no problems being shoulder-to-shoulder with people in a subway or a crowded place, but the moment I feel someone in front or behind me, I think that’s way too close.

So I started to have my arms half bent in front of my chest. Somehow this made me feel more protected.

At first I wondered if educated civilized people would take part in moshing. In this concert where the distortion of the electric guitar was so loud that the text becomes barely audible.

Then I got slightly terrified of the people bumping into me. I quickly turned to H and told him this isn’t quite an Asian thing. I could tell it wasn’t his either, but we went with in.

Later I realized it was more tiring to stand there and judge these annoying people who kept bumping into me, than to take part in it. So I started jumping and pushing back.

I quickly became slightly terrified when I realized the one guy I had been pushing a lot looked unhappy and had a physique that looked as though he could throw me out quickly. I stopped to observe what happened next.

He continued moshing.

I continued moshing.

I even started to think this was fun.

It’s like if you’re in a car, and another behind you rams right into you, your injury depends on whether you had jammed your brakes or not. If you hadn’t tried to resist the impact too much, you wouldn’t have been too impacted at all.

Apparently this is also true with moshing… lesson learnt.

Have you ever moshed?

Our intangible home

We bought a house.

Well, an apartment to be exact.

You wouldn’t believe how intangible this statement is, when buying a newly built, not yet ready apartment – in a city like Berlin.

“In a city like Berlin” because where I come from, buying a completely unbuilt apartment is what 99% of the population do. They have to decide 4 to 5 years in advance to buy, and they have to present their marriage certificate within 6 months of getting the key. This means many couples are under pressure to get a house without knowing for sure that they wanna marry.

In the western side of the world, it is probably more common to buy a house when you can see and touch it, and inspect it before buying.

“Intangible” because we did it the Singaporean way in Berlin. We found the real estate offer online, looked at broschures at the real estate agent, visited the neighbourhood, spoke to the architects, spoke to banks for mortgage offers, and said, ok I’ll buy whatever they’re trying to sell to me on paper.

So we’ve signed the papers and received our last paycheck that’s not given away for mortgage.

As the people say, shit just got real.

I don’t know why this is a much bigger deal than marrying actually. Perhaps it’s a definitive sign of staying in Berlin for a longer term, or that we are gonna start a family at some point hence this is so grownup, or that it’s just a huge load of money.

Thankfully it’s going to be ready in 1.5 years (and not 5), but… I think I’m going to believe it when I’m in the apartment.

Husbands cannot find their own things anymore

I’ve come to realize that my husband’s new hobby is to ask me where his stuff is. This includes his wallet, mobile phone…

Basically everything that I may not have touched or seen in the last 7 days.

But I may have the answer and often I do lead him to the answer!

A few days ago the same thing happened. This time, he found his bag before I could respond.

Husband: Do you know where my bag is?

(3 seconds later)

H: Found it!

I: Why don’t you know where your bag is?!

H: Because you placed it on the couch!

I: Which is next to where you placed it (on the floor)!

H: And my shirt was covering it!

I: Which was done by you!

H: Oh.

My theory: Men suddenly lose their ability to find things the moment they’re married.

H’s theory: Men simply find it more efficient asking the available resources than searching high and low for something.

Hmmm…

Nakedness

As an Asian in Germany, one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had would be to enter and enjoy a sauna.

Because of its geographical proximity to the Scandinavian countries, who stand by this truly, Germans have taken up the culture of being entirely naked in a sauna. To them, saunas are the one place that is truly clean, rid of all unnatural materials – including your bathing suits.

Well, okay, bath towels are fine to sit or lie on.

When H first suggested visiting a sauna place three winters ago, I said, sure let’s ask your brother if he’d like to come along! H hesitated. Later I found out why.

The sauna place was like paradise, with indoor swimming pools and a large variety of sauna rooms. Germans take their saunas very seriously, except everyone was naked. Being short-sighted and a spectacles-hater, I wore contact lenses everywhere possible. This was the first time I decided to go blind as a bat. Somehow I thought if I couldn’t see clearly, neither could people see me.

But after the second and third and fourth time, I thought this makes sense. I mean we wear bathrobes everywhere else in between sauna rooms anyway, which is sort of a dream come true. Apart from that, it is just a body!

That was the interesting part. I have a theory that because many people here take bodies as just bodies (and are not / should not be associated with something sexy in a sauna), nobody looks at a naked body and immediately gets turned on. The same goes with artistic films and pictures. As long as it is not associated with sex, a naked body does not make it pornographic – unlike what Facebook thinks.

But don’t forget to do what the Romans do in Rome.

While we went on an adventurous honeymoon trip last year, we ended up in a hotel in Montenegro that had a sauna. When we got there, the first thing H did was to strip naked and enter. A horrified employee got in quickly and told him to cover up immediately! Oops 🙂

While we were in Poland last week, we were a little more careful with our behaviour, so we waited and observed.

First, nobody stripped when they went into the sauna, so we went in with our bathing suits. How very uncomfortable and unnatural, I thought to myself. Wait – did I just turn Northern?!

And then we got out and observed that a couple stripped before entering – it must’ve been okay. So we followed suit. Except a man entered thereafter without stripping. Then it felt incredibly uncomfortable for me, as I tried to cover up whatever I could, because I felt extremely naked.

This must’ve been what Adam and Eve felt, when before and after the fruit!

The sound of silence

I'm sitting here in a large room in a small town. The room makes no sound, neither does the street.

This after spending the day being in the office, on the crowded train, in the loud restaurant.

Suddenly I'm understanding the meaning of the phrase "deafening silence".

I really do want to break the silence by putting the tv on. Or Spotify. Something, anything.

But I shan't. I shall deal with the sound of silence. Just living with me. I can do this!

Good friends are there for the good times

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday. We talked about friendships.

And she said, you know what? People like to say good friends are there for the bad times. But that's bullshit.

It's way too easy to have to be a listening ear and comfort someone by saying things will get better, this too shall pass, he doesn't deserve you.

But the true friends are the ones who are there for your good times – because they are the ones who feel happy for you.

That couldn't be better said.

When was the last time you put aside anything you're dealing with to share the joy and excitement your friend is going through?

I've exciting/scary news at the moment, (and I would share it in due time) but the reactions I got so far has made it way too easy to evaluate who gives a damn.

Some empathize with your anxiety and share your joy, while other only react to the news they want to hear, and prefer to speak about themselves instead.

I have a theory based on a scale of acquaintance to good friends.

  • Acquaintances are there for the good times; they pop up to congratulate you in good times despite having not spoken to you in years.
  • Friends are there for the bad times because they can still be assed enough to ensure you feel a little better.
  • Good friends are there for the bad, and most wonderfully, for the good.

Ah, friends.