Surprise, we moved to Vancouver. Here are some impressions from our first days. Enjoy.
I am learning so much about the city, life in Canada and since so many of you ask how we are doing and also WHAT we are doing I am happy to share some updates.
I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement.
Where should we live?
Our biggest question currently. When we came here last year we were pretty sure that we would move to the so called North Shore, the other side of Vancouver towards the mountains. It is beautiful, some streets have walking access to ski lifts, good schools. It is, however, more precipitation and clouds and for sure less vibrant city life. The market here works a bit differently than in Germany. While land matters in Germany, it also matters what kind of a building is on the land. Here not so much. A wide piece of land with a tiny house might cost more than a new duplex just because Vancouver is running out of space and has a housing crisis.
So on the weekends we drive around different neighbourhoods and go to Open Houses. Randomly peaking into peoples’ homes is fun. Observing the real estate agents guiding their clients through houses, though, is like a bad movie. (“Ok, ladies, use your imagination, there is a lot of stuff in the mortgage helper, but once you declutter in your head, so much potential.” :-)) We have come along some stunning streets like the one in the picture lined with old oak trees.
Factors that play quite a big role for us are safety and schools. It seems that being in a district with a good school matters more than in Germany. And if you have not heard about the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, do google it. A couple of blocks of East Hastings Street are home to tent city, home to locally referred to “lost souls”, struggling with drug addiction and homelessness. Covid has only made the situation worse.
Early Bird Life
My main meeting time is between 5.30 – 8.00am. I consider myself very lucky to be able to continue working as a coach from across the globe. While I am an earlybird by nature (yes, Mama & Papa, minus the teenage party years), the new time zone is a huge change for Pouya. His main meeting time used to be 4 – 7pm in Germany, now it is 6-9am. Yet, the wonderful thing is that we now enjoy family life in the evenings. One of the main reasons we moved.
Impressions from our first days
Twin-Update: We have made it to full 31weeks of pregnancy. Both girls are tiny for their gestational age, their dopplers are within range (not great, yet not concerning). They are very active in my tummy which, in general, a good sign. Within the next three weeks the doctors will get them. Since they are still so small there is no chance for a natural birth. It looks like we will have to have a planned c-section.
In the meantime, we moved to a bigger apartment in the South of Munich with a lot of support from family and friends. Watching other people agonize over IKEA instructions is even worse than when you are doing it yourself :-). Aside from reading a lot I signed up for in an investing class and on good days I have been more active again doing things I usually do not do when I am busy with work and working out. We have been to the Ballet, to the Munich antique flea market and to the “Alte Pinakothek” where I saw my first DaVinci (they rent out wheelchairs at the Museum).
I have noticed something in the course of this pregnancy that has been rubbing me the wrong way consistently and I wanted to share it with you. At one of my classes at Harvard Business School we had a couple of lectures on the idea that well developed brains are capable of holding antagonizing ideas without needing to choose one over the other, neither rationally nor emotionally. Achieving this capability would take years of experience.
I am not yet sure if this pregnancy can be applied to this idea. However, as a matter of fact we are expecting twin girls which is a reason for excitement and joy. As another matter of fact these babies have been hit with two bad conditions, a growth restriction and a twin-twin-transfusion-syndrom, and what that has done to their development only time can tell – which is a reason for caution, being prepared for the worst cases and at the very least it is for us to know that we are looking at long weeks of NICU visits and unforeseen challenges.
After a couple of weeks without emergency clinic visits and only standard bad news here and there (which you learn to cope with very fast and we also do not share) we have been receiving a lot of messages like: “I knew all along everything would be good.” Or: “So then now all is well with you and the babies.”
These statements are hard to take, yet I understand where they are coming from. Uncertainty is not something that is easy to deal with. Yet, it is a reality that many people have to face. I usually respond that I do not know whether everything will be ok. And then something happens that makes me very angry at times: People tell me I should not be so negative, or sad.
My personal learning from this is that I have often fallen into the trap of telling people how to feel instead of listening, and telling them that is is ok. From now on I will be much more sensitive towards this. I also understand that black and white thinking is much easier than anything in the middle, but I am trying to eliminate absolute vocabulary.
No, not everything is fine and yes, that is totally ok.
Baby Updates first: Given we only had laser fetoscopic surgery last week the babies are recovering as good as they could. Fetus 1 is alive, has a normal amount of amniotic water for the first time. By no means does this mean they are out of the woods, but it does give us cause to relax a little and stay positive.
My decision to be more open about this has been rewarded with lots of friends from all over reaching out and to me it makes all the difference. As many of you know I am clearly an extrovert getting energy out of human interaction and I have not been able to have so much because I have been put on couch rest, or conditional bedrest. I am allowed to wash myself, go to the bathroom and lay on the couch. In the case of imminent danger of cabin fever I was told that I can be driven to a park to sit outside for a little while.
Since April my movements had been restrained, but I was able to walk through the city, go to the gym to do something resembling sports, go swim at least once a week and be slightly active. Couch rest is a new thing, though. As always it is life’s conundrum: When you’re overworked, in full training, overcommitted to social activities the only thing you want is a day on the couch. When you have an unlimited number of days on the couch ahead of you, it can be daunting. Here is my week one recap:
Letting things happen – hard lesson for the control freak
I always thought I am excellent at handing over tasks, but – really – I understood this week I am not. We have lots of decisions for our new apartment to make, like kitchen, lamps, colors, organizing the move and so on. While my first reaction used to be “why don’t I come with you?”, but this is a good opportunity to either make a decision from the couch or give it entirely out of my hands.
Disengaging from the German angst
It’s been almost two years in Germany and I cannot say that a week has passed without me wishing I had not moved here. Once these emotional moments pass the realization kicks in that I needed this experience to understand what is important to me, what’s bearable and what makes me drive. One thing that continuously rubs me the wrong way is what I am now calling the German angst: the obsessive-compulsive need for things to be in order, clean, in line, taken care of, not risky, insured, safe, planned, organized. For most people here these words create comfort, to me they create a feeling of constantly being pressured into being how I am not, into feeling bad about taking risks, into feeling like I don’t have my life under control because I choose to live without a closet and more bikes than household knives. This week my mom and stepfather were here and I cannot count the amount of times they said something like “You cannot live like this” ; “the kids will need this…” ; “But in the new apartment this situation cannot continue” (referring to us having light bulbs as lamps). What would have rubbed me the wrong way and annoyed me for the first time simply amused me. I do not want to discourage anyone from honoring any of the German norms, but I am padding myself on the back now for every moment that I am able to see how unimportant most of these norms are to me and that I will not abide by any of them unless I feel they make sense to me or us as a family.
I am a total real crime podcast addict
After the third season of Serial I fell into a hole thinking there is no other podcast like this. As it turns out, there are many and I am listening to all of them. My personal recommendations are Over my dead body as well as Up and Vanished. While still well done, I stopped listening to Atlanta Monster and To live and die in L.A. due to serious nightmares.
Sports subscriptions are awesome
Eurosport is showing every leg of the Giro d’Italia in full every day, and TVNow shows all free trainings of the Formula 1. I am not talking about Netflix and Amazon Prime because everybody knows the concept of binging…
IKEA rents out wheelchairs
Thank You for all the book recommendations, I will get to them hopefully soon! Let’s see what next week of couch slouch brings.
Something seemed wrong on tuesday. I called the hospital, they instructed me to come straight into the delivery room. When I arrived there were 6-8 of people waiting for me, assuming that they had to deliver the twins.
Up until that point I had not been too worried, but after my female doctor had told me that both heart beats were positive, she looked at her male colleague and said: “it looks very much like a TTTS.”
I peaked at the sonography screen and fetus 1, the name which we have resumed to for the smaller baby, was pressed to the uterus wall with almost no more amniotic water and space to move. Fetus 2 already had more than 10cm of amniotic water and not only are these the criteria for a laser fetoscopy, it became clear that we had yet another life threatening situation – only this time for both babies. As I had written in one of my last blogs, one baby basically starves, the other one drowns if this complication remains untreated.
It all happened very fast, I was given a very painful shot into my leg muscles to speed up lung development, plus an infusion to stop my contractions and after another Doppler sonography I had one minute to give Pouya a kiss before walking into the OR.
I had to be awake for the duration of the surgery. Luckily enough I was accompanied behind the curtain by a wonderful young female anesthesiologist who totally chimed into a drug-infused shittalking session with me. We agreed that it is basically Yoda with a laser sword fighting off the dark side that had gripped both babies. The surgery was very painful to me, and I can honestly say that my body has now started to take a toll. We are approaching 26 weeks, crazy to think that a normal pregnancy would last 14more…
After the surgery the doctors explained that Fet 1 really has only a third of the placenta and we would have to wait & see how she’ll react to her new circumstances.
It has now been 48hours and both are alive, recovering as good as we could possibly wish for.
Thank You everyone for your texts and love! I really appreciate every single message. It goes without saying that there are some very sad moments sometimes, but I am trying – as always – to resume to Rilke: Why would you want to exclude the negatives, maybe they are the ones that will heal you.
If you have some, I am taking all the book recommendations I can get, currently I am attacking one piece of literature that has been on my bucket list for a long time: War & Peace 😁
Ending with some new observations:
- these long, agonizing animalistic screams one hears out of the delivery rooms do not convince me that one can forget as soon as one sees the newborn…
- Having now been in two different hospitals rooming with different females and their own stories my overall feeling about pregnancy has not changed. On the contrary, I am happy to have met multiple women my age that consider this time as the ultimate sacrifice, that want to punch all writers in the face when they describe pregnancy as this “wonder that is happening inside of you” or remind you in a condescending way “not to loose perspective. It will be such a short time.” Just today I had a conversation with like minds, one of them had to endure a postnatal depression, the other one described pregnancy as totally giving up her body and life. There might be and are multiple females out there that have the time of their lives and obviously having more than one child speaks for them not hating their first pregnancy as much as I do, but I am just very happy to be surrounded by women that have an attitude towards motherhood & feminism which I can identify with.
- The entire team of doctors, midwives and nurses at TU Munich is absolutely great, friendly and encouraging. I feel in very capable and loving hands.
It is early Tuesday morning and as I am writing this I am eagerly awaiting the doctors’ rounds in the hospital to convince them to release me today.
It is not a normal Tuesday, today my step sister is getting married which is the only reason I am in my home town Kassel. The babies gave me yet another scare and I was put on bedrest for the time being. One would think that is gets easier, but as time goes on, my tummy grows and this pregnancy wears me out more and more.
I have been receiving a lot of love and support in the last weeks and I am truly thankful for all of it. I have decided to be more open about what is happening no matter the outcome because I am hearing and seeing lots of people struggle: with getting pregnant, with complications, with loss, with postnatal issues such as career nose-dives.
And as many of you know I am not planning to become a stay-at-home mom, I am not planning to give up triathlon training and my active lifestyle, I am not planning to stay in Germany for too long. Yet, being pregnant comes with many people throwing their opinion and advice at you (or even better: German folks knowing already what I am going to do and how I am going to feel) and even without weekly visits to prenatal specialists and the constant fear of potential loss on mind I am finding myself in a mudpile of feelings questioning a lot of things, especially the role of women and family policy in Western countries.
Selective Intrauterine Growth Restriction
Before getting into that rant, however, here are the facts: I am in my 24th week of pregnancy, both girls (yes!) have active heartbeats. While we had been prepared for a complication called “Twin-twin-transfusion-syndrom” where the blood exchange between the babies is becoming one-dimensional with one baby being the donor and one the receiver, it has turned out that the babies have a very rare different condition called selective intrauterine growth restriction (sIUGR). For reasons unknown, one twin is not getting enough from the placenta, thus staying behind in development. So far we have a 28% growth discordance. Some twins are born with one being half the size of the other.
SIUGR is categorized into three different types depending on the blood flow pattern in the umbilical cord. When the minimum criteria were met for our baby to be called a growth-restricted twin the doctors were under the impression that we are dealing with type 1. Type 1 means that both babies have a good chance of survival and they can make it beyond 30 weeks of pregnancy.
Right before Easter the doctors noticed a connection between the babies that had a blood flow pattern that was all not too great. We were sent home with the option of terminating the growth-restricted twin (that’s what I mean when I talk about little scares).
One week later, after we had taken a break in Croatia, soaked in some sun and rested a lot, the little one’s heartbeat was much better.
Treatment of sIUGR
We are now doing something called “expectant management”: monitoring the babies each week, taking it day by day. The next four weeks will be critical. Technically, the babies have reached liveability, but since the little one is almost two weeks behind her chances are pretty daunting currently.
The doctors & staff at TU Munich’s hospital have been very helpful, explaining everything to us, comforting us, always making time.
I will give more updates soon.
The last diaper I changed 18 years ago. Googling things like “taking care of twins” usually lead to Mami blogs that basically tell you that your life from now on is on the constant edge to suicidal, that you will never sleep again nor get your body back and that your friends are only good friends if they bring you food…
I stopped googling.
Instead, Pouya and I spent a “night out” at the Red Cross Hospital in Munich where a wonderful nurse with 35 years of infant care experience teaches inexperienced grown-ups how to not kill their infants. It was hilarious. Some of my leanings:
- How to spot young parents? Just look for people with puffy eyes and vomit on their shoulders. Our cute nurse was the only one in the room heartily laughing about this joke.
- She warned us not to come back to the hospital if we think the baby has fever and instructed everyone to better learn how to measure temperature in the behinds.
- Obviously, it is not a good idea to hold a conversation when changing boys’ diapers. Any distraction might result in you getting peed on. She also pointed out that, albeit being very small, little boys do have the ability to pee right into your face…Did I mention we’re expecting girls?
All together an entertaining evening which I can totally recommend to anyone. In case you run out of fun stuff to do, I would suggest to sign up for a “Säuglingspflegekurs“. Not more expensive than a movie ticket, and you’ll get free massage oil ;-).