Thursday, May 22, 2014

Our Biggest Adventure in Europe: July 2014!

It's a great time to be living in Maastricht. Warm temperatures are finally here on a semi-regular basis, flowers are in bloom, sidewalk cafes are crowded, and there's almost always something happening in the Vrijthof! For the past couple of weeks, it was a carnival. I can't say I was sad to see all of the garish attractions being torn down on Monday. It's nice to live so close to all of the action but I was getting tired of hearing the theme from Indiana Jones on loop and all of the screaming from the upside-down rides.

It's only a couple of months until Andre Rieu will once again regale us with his orchestra and choir. This year marks 10 years of his concerts in the Vrijthof! He'll be here four weekends in July and it's very possible that during the last weekend, in a small apartment overlooking the square, we will be participating in our own exciting performance. To the soundtrack of classical music, I might start having contractions. And then we'll get a move-on to the hospital so I can deliver our baby! If for some reason we don't make it there in time, I guess we'll have to name him Andre.

Since this is my first baby, I don't really know the differences between having one here versus having one back in the states. I've been seeing a German doctor up until this point. So far, care has been extremely thorough. I have ultrasounds every time I visit the doctor. Initially, we didn't want to know the gender of the baby but it was nearly impossible not to find out because we've been able to see him so often. He's definitely a boy!

When I first found out I was pregnant, people back home warned me that strangers would approach me all of the time to touch my belly. Maybe that's true in America, but here no one has groped me. As the belly grows, sometimes people openly gawk. That makes me a little uncomfortable. Oddly, it's especially the case for elderly men and women. Their stares often seem reproachful, as in: "Shame, shame. Do you know how you got yourself into this position?" It's really weird. I feel like I'm a teen mom on "16 and Pregnant" sometimes. I'm probably just being paranoid.

I swim at a pool in The Netherlands and have a rapport with one of the lifeguards because I go there so often. His wife just had their first baby a few weeks ago so of course he's been offering me lots of advice and colorful commentary throughout the pregnancy. Some of my favorite conversations have gone like this:
"Oh, so you're pregnant? How far along are you? Oh, really? Only four months? Well this (as he produces a camera phone photo of his wife) is what you will look like when you are six months pregnant!!!!!!! You will be big!"

"Try not to swim like that. It uses too much energy. Maybe you can try on your back only, moving your legs. Like a penguin."

My favorite was this:
"Do you have any stretch markings?"
"Ummm... no, not yet....."
"Oh. Well, my wife has lots of stretch markings. I told her, 'At least a zebra has more stripes than you for now!' She did not think that was funny."

All in all, I'd say things have gone well. I'm happy to finally be in the final trimester. It's been very easy to stay active and fit throughout the pregnancy because I walk everywhere here and there's no Chick-fil-A. I prefer swimming and yoga but sometimes I exercise with pregnancy workout DVDs. They're pretty corny. Lots of, "Now, pull that belly in, little mama!" and, "Let's do some pelvic tilts now, mom! Don't forget your kegels!" I hope the neighbors can't hear these uber-cheerful trainers screaming at me about my weakened pelvic wall and uterus.

I feel him kicking around all of the time now and I wonder what he'll look like and sound like. We probably won't be here long enough for him to learn Dutch but I'm really happy that he'll be born in The Netherlands.

We've traveled to so many different places and have been lucky enough to experience many different kinds of cultures, drink lots of great wines and beers, and meet interesting people from all over Europe. It feels like every day here has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I have to say, being able to share all of this with another person who will be half of me and half of my husband tops it all.

So the countdown begins to summer in Maastricht, Andre Rieu, and our baby boy!