Couch Rest, week one: A Recap

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.

Twin Update: acute twin-twin-transfusion system…

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.

Infant Care for Dummies – an entertaining evening

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 ;-).

A test of enduring uncertainty: my twin pregnancy

TTTS, IUGR and a whole lot of waiting

It was after two hours of sonography that the prenatal specialist closed his eyes as if he was going through his knowledge, repeating the observations. He summarized his findings in a rather sobering way: “That is the shit with identical twin pregnancies, they are never just easy.”

There was a size discrepancy between the twins that was hinting at a condition called Twin-twin-transfusion syndrome.It is a rarely occurring condition where blood is transfused unequally from one twin to the other. Left untreated it is lethal in the majority of cases. Treatment, according to this doctor, was not possible for the next couple of weeks. Hence, nature was control.

One week after the initial diagnosis, I assumed the worst. On the contrary, though, things had stabilized. All of a sudden, the doctor considered another condition, the so called intrauterine growth restriction.

It has now been multiple weeks, countless specialist appointments and hours over hours of Googling. Talking about it has become easier: We simply do not know what is going to happen. It has also taken me some time to internalize that there is nothing I can do but to accept faith and to keep stay positive.

Being open about it was very hard for me at first, showing vulnerability does not come easy at all times. Once I opened up I learned from other people who had lost twins, received recommendations for other specialists and felt an abundance of wonderful, encouraging vibes coming our way.

During the ultrasounds I see two kicking and curling not so tiny fetuses. They sometimes wave, suck on their thumbs and they are definitely restless, especially when the specialist is trying to measure them. It is hard to imagine that we might have to undergo laser surgery and that we are dealing with the risk of loosing one of them.

Accepting something that is out of one’s control has so far not been my strong suit. This time that is all I can do: trying to get comfortable with uncertainty.