Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Pregnancy, the Austrian way

When, on something of a whim, we booked this lovely holiday (contents thus far: slow food and long walks followed by longer naps), it meant having to rearrange our 16 week appointment so that we could be followed here. After all the worry that once again surfaced with our last bloodwork results, we were loath to just skip entirely a chance at reassurance, yet another confirmation that everything looks good and is progressing well for our little seedling. Our appointment with a local OB could not have gone better, even if there were some marked cultural shifts in, let's say the care regimen, from that to which we're accustomed in the UK.

We hauled ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn (medical appointments start early here!) and made our way to the clinic; for the first time, I think the busyness and fatigue of the previous days' travel kept my mind from any nerves which usually precede such appointments.

The warm yet state-of-the-art atmosphere of the waiting area was quickly offset by the icy welcome we received from the receptionist, who immediately sized us up as the foreign interlopers we were and informed us that as it was a busy day, she could give no indication of the wait ahead. Even at 7 o'clock in the morning, the clinic was full; immediately noticeable though, was the absence of any dads. At our clinic appointments in England, it is the exception rather than the rule that a pregnant woman will attend such an appointment sans partner. While we waited to be called in, we saw eight patients come and go solo, while H was the only dude anywhere in sight. <cultural shift the first> Given their reputation for, erm...less than progressive gender roles in this country, I suppose it should be unsurprising, but it surprised the sensibilities of this couple nonetheless. I'm lucky who are we kidding, what I really mean is discerning in that my own Austrian is a clear exception to this trend. 

We didn't in the end have to wait long to be called in, and the doctor herself was as warm and welcoming as her receptionist was frosty. She spent a great deal of time going over our history, listening to any concerns, reassuring as that all looked well, and examining me and little seedling. <and here we encounter cultural shift the second> So yes, the Austrians can claim many cultural idiosyncrasies, but unnecessary modesty is not among them. These straightforward, efficient people see no reason to cover up where clinical bodily matters are concerned, and thus, wenn in Wein, as it were...Behind a pointless flimsy partition I stripped from the waist down (save my socks!) and progressed from doctor's office to exam room stirrups to ultrasound room without so much as a crappy paper, ass-hanging-out-the-back hospital gown. Wie natürlich!

Alright then; cervix looks good, blood pressure looks good. My weight is down (!) 2 kgs from my 13 week weigh-in, but since the little seedling is a week ahead in terms of its own weight gain we see who's taking priority here no worries. And finally we get as far as the u/s room. And again, all is clearly set up to accommodate doctor, pregnant lady patient, and...nope, no partner. I mean, obviously. Why ever would you want your husband/wife there with you?! H had to crunch in at the foot of the examining table and lean over the doctor as she wielded the wand. (In all the u/s rooms I've been to before, the table was set up with the u/s machinery one one side, and a chair for the hand-holding partner on the other.)  

Still, it was worth it; what the Austrians lack in gender equality they make up for in technology. (And isn't that just the sum of every stereotype ever produced about the Germanic peoples? No, I am not above gross cultural stereotyping, it seems.) We got a good 25 minutes of u/s time, as she toured us around every little inch and crevice of little seedling's ever-developing form. We got to see the lobes of the brain and an adorable little alien-esque spinal column and each individual rib. So cool. In fact, I'm pretty sure that what we got today was equivalent to the 'special' level II genetic scan that we'll have next month. She even thought she detected little seedling's sex, but again, the 19 week scan should confirm that, so I'm keeping schtum for now. 

Alles gut?, I nervously queried in my still-clumsy German. 'Alles sehr gut', she replied. 'Wunderbar! Eine schönes Baby'. A beautiful baby. We could not possibly have received a better Christmas gift.


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Despite my own weight loss, the little seedling continues unperturbed, and my baby belly is no longer just the overhang of middle age spread a real thing now. We waited until arriving here to shop for maternity stuff, because the products are both cheaper and better quality than in England. So, yesterday we took ourselves off to the shops accordingly. This experience was surreal in more ways than one. First, there is the now obvious fact that...uh, hello, I have an actual (yes, actually real) bump! Strange days indeed. I still can't quite wrap my head around it. 

However, yet more bizarre entertaining still was the exchange I had with the sales clerk when I asked to be directed to the maternity wear, using my available German vocabulary for 'pregnancy' and 'maternity'. She looked at me quizzically, until I mimed my expanding bulge, when recognition set in; 'ah', she said, 'you mean Umstandsmode!'. Uh, ok...I guess so? <cultural shift the third> The literal translation for this word, apparently the commonplace descriptor in German, is 'condition clothing'. And there we found it, all the cheap and expertly made European apparel a pregnant lady could want, under the department marked, yes, Condition Clothing.

I'd have choice words in response to that one, but my delicate, erm, condition prevents me from getting too worked up. Now now, dear, think of the baby.


Let's do the time warp again. Source
 

26 comments:

  1. First of all, what an exciting and perfect christmas gift. I am so happy to hear seedling (and mom) are doing well.
    And the rest... well it all sounds way too familiar, even if there is a whole huge country between The Netherlands and Austria. I have lost all my modesty / expectations to get some kind of hospital gown / cover up / paper towel at appointments. Every time we went to the clinic I had to strip from the waist down and stay like that. Every single time. So weird. Sometimes when we had to wait for a while (like after an IUI) they would give me a little towel, but that was rather exceptional. They are oh so practical.
    And maternity clothing here is also similarly called "positiekleding".

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    1. Wow, Amanda! I guess I have certain conceptions of Austrian culture and society that make this unsurprising (as in, you just shake your head and laugh), but I always imagned Dutch society to be so much more...enlightened? It is wierd, but I spuppose that's the flip side of cultural discovery, right? ;)

      And yes, we were just as delighted with the update at the doc's.

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  2. What a wonderful gift, despite the traipsing around with yourself exposed! So, so thrilled that everything looks good with everyone.

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    1. Thank you Brianna! Getting my kit off seemed like a moment of hilarity in light of this.

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  3. I'm so happy to hear you are all doing well! And I am even more excited to know the sex of the baby! I don't know you in real life, but I have been picturing your baby as a girl.

    How exciting to be maternity shopping. I will probably buy everything online, but I can imagine going to a maternity store would be a lot more exciting. I am also jealous that you lost 2kgs!! I think I am up 1 kg since my NT.

    Glad you are enjoying your vacay :)

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    1. Thanks friend! It seems you and my husband have the same sense about little seedling's sex. Since we first found out I was pregnant, H has had a strong conviction that this one is a girl. In a few short weeks we'll have it confirmed, and we're as anxious as you are!

      As for the maternity clothes, the stuff we bought was all rather practical...jeans and bras and stuff. But the experience of doing the shopping was exciting and...strange.

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  4. Glad seedling looked good!

    Always so strange seeing different ways of handling things culturally- condition clothing, wow.

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    1. I must confess, I kind of get a kick out of figuring out other cultural systems. The anthropology of maternity! And I am like a pregnant Indian Jones.

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  5. wow
    ! super interesting! loved this post! so glad you are doing well! so excited to hear the sex confirmed! have a great rest of your trip! and show us the clothes you bought!

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    1. Thanks Kimberly! Two weeks and counting until we learn if we've got a he or she seedling! In the meantime, loving all the movement I'm feeling.

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  6. Yay, this was such a fun post to read :) I'm so thrilled about your great ultrasound--a perfect Christmas present, indeed! That is hilarious about the "condition clothing," and very odd about women going alone to their appointments. But I suppose every culture has its norms. It sounds like you're having a wonderful vacation. Can't wait to see pictures!

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    1. And pictures have been duly posted. Of course I'll expect some in return from your sojourn to the City of Lights!

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  7. So glad you got another peek at your little seedling--even on vacation!--and that all is looking good! I don't know that I could get used to walking around pantsless, but I guess it's worth it for such a warm and reassuring appointment. Can't wait to find out if that's a boy- or girl-seedling thriving in there!

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    1. It was a highlight of the holidays for sure! And to tell the truth, the superiority of the u/s machine they used, and the images we got, would have been worth the trip alone.

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  8. Cultural differences indeed. I'm completely unsure what to expect when I go for my 'fetal anomoly scan' in Australia in January. Its nothing like the NHS here, that is for sure. I rang to check it wasn't mis-scheduled but was told they want you to be at least 20 weeks?
    It is great to know all is well with both you and your seedling and hope it continues that way. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

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    1. I stopped by your blog last week, but hope in the meantime you've been able to sort out the confusing medical protocols, Lisa. I hope you've also had a lovely holiday and are settling in.

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  9. Wonderful, wonderful. I get that cultural difference thing. I just had some fun of my own getting an infusion in Hungary. But hey - it's a lucky thing to be able to get help, and good news, when needed. Enjoy the new clothes!

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    1. Yikes Catherine, I hope the staff at the clinic in Budapest were a bit more on the ball after your first visit. But equally so glad that you got to spend Christmas surrounded by Zsolt's family and all the loveliness there. Hope you had a great Christmas!

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  10. So great to hear about your ultrasound, despite your cultural differences! Ha.

    Do you watch Masters of Sex? I LOVE that show! You're right, it's a total time warp.

    Enjoy the rest of your vacation, it sounds lovely.

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    1. I am hooked on the show too. I think it does a really great, nuanced job of dealing with themes of infertility and loss, and I love it for that.

      As for the time warp, I was thinking of Austrian attitudes in this instance...

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  11. I am so excited for you! So glad you go to see so much during the u/s :)

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    1. Thank you my friend! These are exciting days indeed.

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  12. You couldn't have posted better news! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year, my friend!

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    1. Thank you Eve, you are so sweet. I am hoping for many wonderful things for you in the year to come. Happy Holidays my friend.

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  13. This was such a wonderful post Sadie! I LOVE it! I'm so happy that the ultrasound checked out - this is such happy news. Merry Christmas to you and your husband! Enjoy your vacation!

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    1. You're so sweet! We were indeed pleased with the results; now let's hope the genetics scan next month corroborates this one. Fingers (and everything) crossed.

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