Summer is well and truly over. When visible through the fog the Alps have gone from being craggy black rocks to icing-sugar-dusted peaks, to one of those Pinterest style cakes that has the icing faux-casually half schmeared on it, to the full blown thickly and lusciously covered wedding cake affair. The leaves are at their most stunning, the afternoons golden and crisp, and Magenbrot is back at the markets (a spicy Autumn cookie that I love the most). Herbst is, no question, my best. This year I’ve paradoxically both slowed down and been super productive due to the phenomenon that’s only occurred for me once before: nesting.
In preparation for the Baby Apocalypse, meals have been prepped and frozen (in the Australian freezer we initially kicked ourselves for bringing, but for which we are now grateful), the pantry audited, culled and restocked. Prams, baby seats, cots, toys and ridiculous teeny tiny winter wear covered in dinosaurs are taking over our cellar. Shelves have been assembled and organised prettily but terribly impractically, most definitely not in a child friendly manner. Our weird indoor balcony area has become a sunroom (although fogroom may be a more accurate description on days such as today), with a day bed purchased and set up to maximise winter rays and mountain views. All that’s missing is a newborn with whom to snuggle (the resident toddler refuses to sit still long enough for anything better than a stolen one-armed-hug). A hospital has finally been chosen; by default, really, as it was the one that got back to me with an English speaking tour guide. The Christmas shopping, if not actually completed, is pretty much taken care of and that in itself is something of a seasonal miracle. I’ve also spent a lot of time on the afore mentioned daybed, napping and drinking lovely warm drinks (cough eating Magenbrot) and oscillating between feeling sorry for myself (I have been asked now many times if I am expecting twins due to how large I am. While this is good for my German conversation skills, it is absolutely wretched for my ego) and getting excited for the times ahead.
This pregnancy has been a very different experience from the last – physically, emotionally and practically. Physically, I had no issues whatsoever the first time. I was tottering around in high heels at work at eight months, for heaven’s sakes. This time….hoo boy. I’m enormous and sore and still queasy and doesn’t everyone know all about it (I confess I am not the most pleasant of people to be around, what with all the moaning and groaning. You’d think I was the first person to have a baby). Emotionally, the pregnancy with Addie was tough as we weren’t sure how her health would pan out, and it was a terribly stressful time as we tried to prepare for the unknown and the worst at the same time. This round has been a dream. The lad is growing perfectly, and even if he wasn’t our experience from last time has shown us that it will be alright – that we’ll manage, and love our kid, and do our best for him whatever happens. As a result I’ve been far more relaxed about the whole experience, feeling excited as opposed to nervous about the upcoming months.
Practically there have been quite a few differences being pregnant here rather than in Australia. System wise, I’ve found both to be excellent although they couldn’t be more different in structure. No public health care exists in Switzerland; it’s a private insurance model and, like everyone, we pay monthly premiums as well as the gap on any treatments (although this is waived after the 13th week of pregnancy). Monthly visits and scans with an obstetrician is par for the course, as opposed to the two major scans received at home (we had more because of potential pickles, but that is generally what the public system allows). All my medications – prenatal vitamins, iron tablets and the like – are provided by the obstetrician at the appointment, which suits a lazy person like myself admirably. Conversely and not so conveniently, I have to find my own midwife to do home visits following the birth which naturally I left a little late for a Festive Season Bub (curse all the professionals who want Christmas holidays). There are also apparently different naming conventions here – I’m not sure how accurate this is, but word on the street is that the baby’s name needs to be submitted prior to birth and the Swiss generally don’t allow hyphenation of last names. Given that we’re foreigners, there’s apparently flexibility with this for us. This is a relief because although agreed on his first two names, neither of us will let the last one go so we have another poor double-barrelled baby on the way.
My favourite difference – and more than likely a direct correlation with my increased enjoyment of pregnancy – is the Swiss approach to pregnancy food safety. In Australia, there were many restrictions recommended which I generally followed throughout my first pregnancy. To make sure I had it covered here, during one of my first appointments I asked the obstetrician about the Swiss guidelines and she looked at me as if I had two heads. I was told firmly that smoking was out (which, other than in our German lesson ‘fantasie’ conversations I don’t do, so no arguments here) but other than that, what did I mean? I mumbled about soft cheese and salami and booze and pre-packaged salad and she actually laughed at me. I was told that some drinking is alright – up to* two drinks per day is fine (!) – and everything else…is no problem at all. Happiest of days. (For the record, I was super cautious the first trimester and I still refrain from things like sushi in a land-locked country, but I do that sans baby bump anyway as a matter of principle. After that, though, I’ve lightened up and it’s been great. It could also explain the twins-related comments I have been receiving, sigh.)
So, insofar as one can be prepared for the onslaught that is an additional human into one’s life, I guess we are. There’s about seven weeks to go if he takes after me, and who knows how long if he takes after his far less reliable father. As long as he’s evicted before Christmas Day, this mama will be happy – although with the Swiss rules it’s not as if I’d have to miss out on my Christmas fizz anyway.
* Obviously the ‘up to’ here is key. From what I’ve observed, and excluding all-out party times like Fasnacht, the Swiss have nothing like the drinking culture we’re used to (slash fond of). It’s a very moderated and much healthier society and while people definitely drink it’s not the excessive binge mentality that is frequently the cultural and social norm in Australia (which is not by any stretch of the imagination a bad thing, particularly given the associated public ugliness that frequently ensues at home). So for most Swiss mamas-to-be, to carry on with normal drinking practices – one every now and then – is grand. For me, a couple here and there and plenty of nights off is definitely a reduction but obviously one I’ve been more than happy to make. Because one or two here and there is loads better than none!