A Coffee Chat

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I am 8 months pregnant today.

I was recently reminded that in just 5 weeks, this baby will be considered full-term. I feel like there’s still so much to prepare before his arrival, and that ideally, I’d have it all done by the end of August because the baby can really, healthily, come anytime in September. I think being physically prepared for him to arrive will help a lot with being more emotionally ready for him.

At least I hope so. It could be that once I have everything in place and finding the perfect doilies to line the baby shelves or getting the right bottle sanitizer no longer consumes monumental proportions in my head, I’ll have nothing left to do but focus on trying not to freak out about the birth.

We’ve started taking childbirth preparation classes. There’s a really fantastic community of midwives and trained nurses here who routinely welcome pregnant families into their home, ply them with fresh home-cooked goodies, and hold classes on labor & birth, postpartum care, and breast-feeding–all from the goodness of their hearts. They won’t even accept donations, except of the kind they can pass on to future new mothers. They make themselves available should you need help when the big day comes, and they’ll even come to your house and help out with any issues you might have with breastfeeding afterward. I kind of expected to feel more lost, alienated, or alone out here as an expat…but I don’t feel anything of the sort when there’s such a wonderful community and resources available. And I’ve heard so many times that, in the experience of mothers who gave birth in the U.S. and then gave birth here, they vastly preferred giving birth here because the doctors here aren’t so concerned about litigation as in the U.S.–which means they are more hands off, letting you do your thing as you feel best suits you, until you need them. Then, when you’re actively pushing, the doctor will be there to help you much more than is usual in the U.S.

Not that there aren’t drawbacks and things you have to watch out for here, as practices on various things differ. It’s just good to know that the birthing experience here has been so positive for so many women.

I’m trying not to be too freaked out by everything involved–our first class was quite graphic about what all the body has to go through and do. But it is comforting to know that, for the most part, the female body was made to do it, and mostly, my job (and Toby’s job) is to just help it along, and do things to help make sure I’m not getting in my own way. Our second class focused on showing us that there are a variety of techniques, all geared towards making the process as efficient as possible and to help deal with whatever situational cards we’re dealt. So that makes me feel like this thing might be somewhat manageable.

In the meantime, there are things I have to think about here, as an expat, that I wouldn’t be so concerned about if we were living in the States. Beyond passports and citizenship documents (which should be pretty straightforward, actually), I think about the implications of our plans to travel back home in the next year or so, or to Europe to visit the grandparental units there. We have plans to spend a full month in the U.S. next year, and then a full month again in Europe the following year. With so much time spent abroad, we’ll not only need to get our kid vaccines for diseases prevalent here, we’ll need to research and request vaccinations required in the U.S. and Europe, and figure out what’s a good schedule to give them to our kid and not overwhelm his little body.

But even that’s not such a big deal.

However, there is one thing that keeps tripping me up. It drives me nuts, to no end. It actually makes me angry–probably disproportionately so.

And that’s the car seat. For someone who habitually travels light (physically and emotionally), who was carried home from the hospital in her mother’s arms, and who distinctly remembers playing freely as a child in the back of her dad’s VW when we drove anywhere, the car seat represents more than just an inconvenience. It’s a burden, an infringement, governments poking themselves in where they don’t belong.

It’d be one thing if the car seat was small, light, or easily packed. I could also be more inclined to shrug it off if car seats were anywhere near cheap, so we could just buy one when we arrived. No. The car seat is a veritable exorbitantly-priced beast, and there’s no guarantee it will fit well in whatever cars we use when we arrive in the U.S. or Germany. And when we travel to the U.S., it’s not like we just go to L.A. and that’s it. We have people to visit in L.A., central California, northern California, South Carolina, and if we can afford the time & extra flights, Florida and Atlanta. So we’d have to keep lugging the damn thing across the continental U.S. The irony is if we were traveling to Thailand instead of from Thailand, it wouldn’t even be a concern since, with moms riding on motorbikes with their babes tucked in slings here, the whole car seat concept is kind of optional.

I’m not saying I don’t care about our kid’s safety. I just buck against being forced to do something when there are no convenient alternatives. (Why aren’t car seats more travel friendly??) But, as my husband points out whenever I complain about this, we knew our days of easy, light travel are over for the foreseeable future. We did sign up for this, after all.

I’m sure that, by the time the situation actually arises, I’ll have gotten over it and accepted it as just the way things are. Since Toby & I usually pack light enough we could share a suitcase between the two of us (even with gifts for friends & relatives), we do have room to spare to bring stuff for the little one.

Anyway, I’d better get over it, or give up on travel for the next 5 years.

So…this coffee session turned out to be one huge venting spree…sorry about that! Your turn now. How are things going for you? If we were meeting for coffee, would there be something you’d want to vent about too?

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11 thoughts on “A Coffee Chat

  1. I only had the amazing opportunity to meet and spend a few days with you at a writer's conference, before you were whisked away to other countries. However, I am in awe with you and your life and your upcoming motherhood.
    I laugh at all of your venting, because as soon as your baby comes, you will love the safety of the carseat and will be more pissed that there are not more precautions to keep your precious baby safe from everything in the entire world.
    Your perspective will change so much that you will look back at your post one day and laugh historically, and I would love to read the post you write 18 years from now.
    My son is leaving for college in a week and a half, and I so miss the days when I worried about the ridiculously priced car seats….I will tell you that all of the crazy baby things are unnecessary……you won't use them……but, get them if it makes you happy, because you only live once, and crazily prices things won't hurt your baby…..but really it is love that will make your baby happiest, and I can tell that you are going to give your baby exorbitant amounts of love that will last forever.
    My son actually told me a very funny joke today, and it was that there was a box of Crayola Crayons and Generic Crayons, and the choice you make decides what kind of parent you are….Of course the joke was that the good parent should buy the Crayola Crayons….but really, the good parent buys the cheaper crayons and focuses more on loving their child….I am so excited for you and the amazing life you are about to experience……the best think in my life is my son!

    • Thanks so much, Debi, for your lovely comment and all the sweet things you say! I really appreciate it, and I'm glad we had the chance to meet at that conference. I'm sure I'll come around to the car seat soon enough–I just wish they were a tad more ergonomically designed. Seriously, I'm looking at this thing and it's almost as big as my husband's office chair!

      Congratulations to your son and I wish him all the best of luck as he goes to college!

      • What kind of seat did you get? We have 4 (yeah, seriously) and none of them are that big! We got ones that were specifically made to take up less space, since if my husband is in the car it means the seat has to be all the way back….which doesn't leave much room for a rear facing seat. Thank goodness Barrett turns one in a few weeks and we can switch him forward facing.

        • We got a Britax convertible one, I forget the exact model (Roundabout, I think?). It\’s big compared to the little infant carriers, which are pretty much all that\’s available to buy here, and it\’s big for our little Honda Jazz. Haven\’t actually tried installing it yet, so we\’ll see how that goes. But cars here do run much smaller than in the U.S. Even the big trucks and SUVs which seem huge here, would be considered small ones in the States. It should be fine in my sister\’s SUV in SoCal, but I\’m not sure what we\’ll driving around in elsewhere. Sure is heavy though. I think the thing for us to do would be to just check it at the counter and get one of those little CARES harness things to use on the flight.

            • Because baby stuff here costs at least 2-3x the price in the US, and I'm not keen on spending hundreds of dollars on something we'll only need for about a month–assuming he'll even still fit in an infant carrier by the time we go back to the States.

              • Ah, got it. I was really sad when Barrett outgrew the infant carrier (by height at 5 months) because it was nice to be able to take him in and out of the car without waking him up.

  2. I'm glad you've been able to find a support group there that will make you feel more at ease before and after the baby comes. That must be a huge relief. I can't believe there's only one more month to go – time is just FLYING!

  3. You've got it backwards! Especially when they're small, car seat/carrier is the greatest thing ever: all-in-one carrier, bed, and play area.

    When your baby is bigger, it's annoying – trust me, I've dragged a carseat through more than a few airports. But there are small-ish ones that aren't exorbitantly expensive, and you can get folding carts that turn them into little strollers. Never had a problem with it not fitting into a car, either, from full-sized pickups to compacts.

    Basically, on the annoyingness scale, car seats aren't really that high up. You'll have LOTS more things to be annoyed at when traveling with a little one. :-)

    (One benefit: You'll become immune to other kids crying on planes – in fact, you'll be remarkably happy that it's not yours!)

    • Maybe it would be worth considering renting a car seat when we arrive in the States, just long enough to give us time to find a better travel option. I'm definitely not getting one here though, as they cost 3-4 times the price of car seats in the US, AND there's hardly any selection and they're mostly crap plastic anyway. By the time we travel, our kid will be about 9 or 10 months old, and each successive trip will be a year after, so he'll quickly become not small.

      Hehehe… I'm sure it seems strange that I would b*tch about something designed to keep my little one as safe as possible, but it is a shift in perspective when everyone here puts their kids on motorbikes. Seriously, good friends of ours (who are Americans) have a kid who is a year and a half, and they stick him in that ERGO backpack carrier thing and his dad will hop on his KTM dirtbike with him. Forget car seats, forget helmets…he just needs to make sure to flip up the little cloth hood so his baby's head doesn't get sunburnt or else all the old ladies in the village will yell at him for exposing that beautiful white skin to the sun. :) And who needs a heavy, bulky car seat when you've got a sling? ;)