Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009 - Flipping Around

Today I had a big baby-prep day.

First, when I was out running some errands I bought diapers. To be specific, three different types of newborn diapers from Pampers. I don't know how much Simba will weigh (and everything here is in kilos, which still confuses me) and each kind of diaper had a different weight range...so I bought one pack of each. And some baby wipes. I assume this is a very "first time" mother thing to do. Now if the baby comes early, we will be able to keep his or her bottom fresh....although I have yet to find a pad for the changing table. It's on the list for next week.

Next, I met with an acupuncturist here - she is a great woman and I felt a very strong connection to her when I met her for the first time at Thanksgiving - about what she can do for women in labor and delivery. It turns out that she can't do that much actual acupuncture because during labor you aren't just lying still in a bed, but there are certain moments when she can do a little acupuncture and many moments when she can do different relaxation therapies and provide general support, similar to a doula. As of now, I am pretty convinced that I want to deliver Simba without an epidural or anything and so she is a good option for helping me cope with that. Kristoffer and I haven't decided how involved we want her to be, if at all, but I had a great conversation with her and I am happy to have her as an option.

Finally, we had a doctor's appointment. Turns out my iron is a tiny bit low, although not in the anemic range thankfully, so I have to eat more spinach! Also turns out I might have a urinary tract infection; I am getting retested tomorrow so that by the beginning of the week I can be put on antibiotics if that is the case. I don't feel sick or like I have a UTI, but it can be really bad for Simba if I do and it is harder to detect when you are pregnant because you are so used to your body doing crazy things. I haven't gained any weight in two weeks, but the doctor did not seem concerned about this because I had gained so much in the weeks prior to that. We mostly discussed more details about the hospital and the baby's positioning. While Simba cooperated two weeks ago and turned to the proper head-down position, currently his/her head is up in my ribs. I knew that before the appointment - I actually think Simba has changed positions 3 or 4 times in the last two weeks and I knew that s/he had flipped again. I will have an ultrasound next week to see what s/he is doing...but clearly the baby is not ready to come yet (ok by me!) and we just hope that by the time my body starts to push him/her out Simba has decided to get into the right position. I am rejecting offers to schedule a C-section or to induce labor at a moment when we know Simba's head is down because I would really like this baby to come out as naturally as possible. We still have 5 weeks to go and I don't feel that that is too little time for the baby to get into the right position.

This weekend we still have our Danish friends visiting as well as a new visitor from NYC - it is a full house! Kristoffer's friend Stig is going to sleep on a mattress in the nursery and we hope to get feedback on how he thinks the baby will like it (not that it is finished yet...but getting closer).

LMW

Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009 - Local News Updates

Even though I am baby-obsessed these days and, therefore, my blogs are all about getting ready for Simba, I do acknowledge that there has been some really interesting news in Kenya lately that I'd like to share. Here are what I would classify as today's top 4 news stories (or at least the four stories that I talk to our driver, Charles, about the most when we are in the car):

1. Teacher's strike: Public school teachers in Kenya have up until now made very little money (I believe around $130 (US) per month), particularly compared to other employees of the government. It is important to remember that in many schools in the country there are up to or more than 60 students in a classroom with a lack of textbooks and teaching materials and other poor conditions, so it is not like these teachers have an easy job. Occasionally they threaten to go on strike, or actually do, but very little seems to ever improve between the government and the teacher's union. Starting last week, the teachers went on strike again - or at least many of them did...in some parts of the country the strike never actually materialized - and today the government and the teacher's union came to an agreement that teachers will accept. While I don't know the actual time frame, teachers' salaries will be increased in three phases with the first and second phases seeing increases of 40% and the third phase increasing by 20%. It is good for the country to get its education system back on track (or at least not shut down), because of course students are hurt the most by teacher strikes in any country, and I hope that this is a sign of progress with the government showing more respect to the teachers it employs.

2. Big Fire Downtown: In the city center yesterday afternoon, a fire started in one of the large Nakumatt grocery stores (which I have written about before, but this one is not one that we ever go to). Apparently the whole street had experienced a power outage and the store was operating on its generator. When the regular power was restored and the generator turned off for the regular electricity, there was some kind of explosion that ignited the fire, which spread quickly. Initially, it was believed that only 4 people were injured and nobody was killed, but 24 hours later there were 34 people still reported missing from that store and it is likely that they didn't make it out. Hundreds of people were evacuated and traffic is STILL (literally) backed up on the highway because they had to close a major road. One of the flaws of the city's government that is highlighted here is their lack of preparedness to handle such a serious fire: the fire department could not maintain the fire on its own and relied on the help of several private security companies as well as the military to get it under control. Currently in Kenya, Members of Parliament do not pay taxes on all of their non-salary allowances (homes, cars, entertainment, etc.) which amounts to a LOT of money and which I find to be a horrible crime. I loved reading in the paper today several letters that noted if MPs were paying taxes on all of their income then maybe the city could afford a larger, more effective and efficient fire brigade Oh yeah.

3. Local Tribunal Court: Towards the end of last year, an independent commission that studied the events of post-election violence handed over to the panel of prominent African leaders (headed by Kofi Annan) a list of suspected Kenyan leaders - specifically six high-level government Ministers and five Members of Parliament - who were involved in planning or financing the violence that took place. Kenya has been sentenced to conduct its own local tribunal to determine the guilt or innocence of these 11 politicians so that they can be held responsible if they were involved. If they don't legally establish this tribunal by next week I believe (or maybe it is tomorrow?!?!), then the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague (the Netherlands) will hold its own tribunal and Kenya's "dirty laundry", so to speak, will be aired for the whole world to see and judge. There is increasing pressure from several prominent politicians that Kenya needs to hurry up and establish the local tribunal to save the country this public embarrassment, particularly because a Kenyan judge was recently appointed over 19 candidates to sit on the ICC at the Hague. Hopefully the country will amend its laws so that the tribunal can be set up before the deadline. It will help the country heal, I believe, to get this over and not drag it on for years.

4. Maize Scandal: Basically, the country is experiencing an extreme food shortage right now, so much so that the week we came back to Kenya the President declared a state of emergency because 10 million people were/are at risk of starvation. Much of this is because of drought and failed rains, some of this is because of the shortage of crops that were planted last year due to the post-election violence, and some of this is because of allegedly corrupt policies and practices between some government officials and local maize millers and farmers. It is an extremely complicated issue and I am not the authority on it by any means (Kristoffer has much more inside knowledge given his work with the WFP) but what I do find VERY interesting is that one of the MPs who is believed to be involved in this maize corruption scandal is the Minister of Agriculture, who is also suspected to be one of the names on the secret list of politicians accused of being involved in planning or financing last year's post-election violence (see #3 above). I have written this before: we are not fans of his. It will be very interesting to see what happens here.

So you see, the news in Kenya does not entirely (or even partially) revolve around Simba's impending birth. Clearly his or her entrance into the world will be the biggest news story of our year, but the rest of the country might find that some of these other stories take precedent.

LMW

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 28, 2009 - Baby Doctor Round 2

Before delving into the details of the doctors, I have to say that last night's lamaze class was much better than the first class. There was still a lot of the mid-wife asking questions that most people felt too uncomfortable to answer aloud, but this week's mid-wife was much better than last week's. The whole class was about the three stages of labor (pre-pushing, that is), what mothers might feel physically and emotionally, what both the mother's body and the baby's body are doing during labor, how partners can help mothers, when to go to the hospital, etc. In other words, it was about "game day" details which is what we have been looking for, and it did include a lot of useful and new information. The two hours went by pretty quickly and, even though we were so tired before the class that we really didn't want to go, we were happy we did. There were only two moments of minor panic for me and Kristoffer:

1. The mid-wife said that it is "safe for the baby" if labor begins any time after 36 weeks...at which point we both looked at each other and said, "that's next week!" A few of the other couples noted our reaction and thought it was a little bit funny...they, of course, are only at 23 weeks right now. I think at 38 weeks we will be ready, but next week might be pushing it a bit for us!

2. The mid-wife also said that we won't be discussing pain management options until the 5th class (3 more weeks!) and should the above come true (labor shortly after 36 weeks) we wouldn't make it to that class! The mid-wife agreed to bring us the notes from the pain management class next week so that we can have them ahead of time and use them to complete our birth plan. We are hoping to get to the 5th class anyway!

So, lamaze class for the week: check. And today I interviewed two more pediatricians. I have to admit, I liked them both for different reasons and looking at all three doctors had anticipated a much clearer "winner", thinking that I would find one doctor I instinctively liked the best, rather than 3 doctors with different yet equally redeeming good qualities. Of course tonight I will spill all of the details to Kristoffer - my pros and cons of each doctor - and see if he will weigh in on the decision, but at the end of the day good old medical insurance might help make the decision for us because I don't believe all three of them participate in our insurance company (which I just discovered this afternoon). If that is the case, then it is good to feel comfortable with any of the three. Generally, I do think this hospital provides good care and that all three doctors were of very high quality and standards.

Today I also ordered custom-sized mattresses for Simba's cradle and crib, which is another thing to check off the list, but am still hunting for some key baby supplies, such as a changing table pad and sheets for the new mattresses (I think I'll have to go custom on those too but haven't figured out where I can do that yet). It is a good thing I am not working full time because I have a lot more things to do than I thought I would. At the same time, I am still doing a little bit of work for UNICEF to wrap up something from last year...but I have to admit that my heart is not really in it at all and I can't wait for it to be over.

To get back to lamaze class for a minute, the reason I was so tired before going last night is because I am not sleeping well at all anymore and on Monday night I really only caught 4 1/2 hours of solid sleep. My sister would tell me that my body is getting me ready for sleepless nights with a newborn (which I think is a raw deal...I should be allowed to get as much sleep as possible pre-newborn, right?), which might be true, but that doesn't make it anymore fun! Last night, for example, I woke up every hour on the hour to go to the bathroom for 6 straight hours in a row. I have been used to 2 or 3 bathroom trips a night for the entire pregnancy, but last night reached a new high, "even for you", as Kristoffer said to me this morning. I basically give up on sleeping between 6 and 7 in the morning, but by 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon (right about now, actually) I am desperately in need of a nap.

In fact, I think that about wraps up this blog and I will take a nap right now.

LMW

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26, 2009 - Baby Doctor Round 1

Simba is doing somersaults these days - I don't think s/he can figure out which way to settle, so sometimes his/her head is up and sometimes it is down. I am hoping that one of these days s/he will stop flipping, pick a spot and stay put (preferably head down) because the gymnastics are not so comfortable for me. It is getting harder for me to sleep long stretches at night without having to rotate my own position and, of course, go to the bathroom. Good news is that my leg cramps are a lot better, even if the rest of me is more uncomfortable. We have another checkup this week on Friday afternoon with my doctor.

To keep up with the active little one, I began my search for a pediatrician today. I had two appointments, but one of them was cancelled because the doctor was too busy with sick babies to meet with me. I can certainly appreciate that the babies are more important than a list-full-of-questions-bearing-potential-future-patient's mother. So I will meet that doctor and a third doctor on Wednesday morning. From three interviews, I hope to find one doctor that is a good fit for us.

The doctor I did meet with today was very nice; she reminded me a lot of my obstetrician in that she is very calm and relaxed and answers questions very thoroughly. Her medical training took place in Russia, actually, and she did her internship at our hospital here in Nairobi. She has been a practicing pediatrician for 14 years and in private practice for about 5 years. While she is a general pediatrician, she is currently doing a fellowship for a sub-specialty in pediatric endocrinology. She easily and comfortably answered all of my questions about the baby traveling, vaccinations, making appointments, etc. and she also said that she appreciates when parents come with their questions written down because it usually makes the parents calmer and appointments go smoother. I was happy that she wasn't turned off by my polite grilling! The only hitch with her is that for her fellowship she will have limited office hours in May, June and July and I am not sure that I am very comfortable only having access to her in the evenings and on Saturdays. Of course, we will also be away for the month of June so maybe it isn't that big of a deal. As much as I liked her, I am happy that I will have two other doctors to whom I can compare her before deciding.

Kristoffer and the guys had a great climb up and around Mt. Longonot yesterday and I had a girls day with my friend Stephanie. All is well in Nairobi - despite the immense afternoon heat - and I am now in my 35th week of pregnancy. I can't even express how excited I am getting to meet Simba!

LMW

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 24, 2009 - Happy Birthday, Pops!

FIrst, Simba would like to wish his/her "Pops" (my dad) a HAPPY BIRTHDAY today. Simba is really hoping that Pops and Nene will get here in time for his/her actual day of birth - which is expected exactly 6 weeks from day (a few days earlier than that would be OK by me).

The baby furniture did arrive yesterday ON TIME, which is the first time such a thing has ever happened in Kenya's history...or maybe just in our history in Kenya. We really like it and now I have all kinds of small projects I want to do to organize/decorate the nursery. I feel like every day I organize or reorganize something...how much longer can this go on?! Even Kristoffer was as happy as I was when he saw the furniture in the room and last night he was like, "do you wanna go hang out in the baby's room?" Unfortunately, with the baby's room missing its key ingredient (eh hem...the BABY!) it is not that fun to just "hang out" in there...although Simba already has a lot of great books and toys to read and play with!

Last night two friends from Denmark - Stig and Steffan - arrived to visit for two weeks. They will go to the Masai Mara this week and next week will climb Mt. Kenya. It is fun to have visitors; Kristoffer was very giddy when he picked them up at the airport at 11:30 last night. Today we are going to take them to visit the By Grace Orphanage and will also give the orphanage some donations that people gave us when we were home in the US and DK. Tomorrow the guys will climb Mt. Longonot - Kristoffer's favorite thing to do with visitors...this will be at least his 4th time climbing the volcano!

Those are our weekend plans...hope yours is a good one!
LMW

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22, 2008 - One Step Closer

Today we took the plunge and bought some high-quality-yet-extremely-overpriced-because-it-is-imported-from-South-Africa baby furniture, specifically a crib and a changing table, and they will be delivered tomorrow or Monday. This is what we bought:




I also went to a UN spouse club meeting today for the first time since last March. All of the women in the club are in agreement with the majority of our blog poll-takers so far in that they are convinced that Simba is a boy (there are several women in the club from Indonesia, India, and Malaysia and apparently these women have extremely accurate instincts about these matters). I am trying once again to initiate a book club with the group, which may not be the smartest undertaking just before having a baby, but in the meantime I am doing a lot of reading so I figured there is no harm in trying again.

Anyway, it is good news that we are one step closer to having an official baby nursery in our house, and of course our surprise find last weekend of a rocking chair makes it even better. My increasing nesting instincts are very pleased.

LMW

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009 - Teachers Make Bad Students

Last night Kristoffer and I attended our first of six childbirth (aka lamaze) classes. We should have predicted that the class - supposedly from 6-8 pm at the hospital - would have started on African time (approximately 30 minutes late) but we were so anxious because we planned to dash out a few minutes early to get to a television in time to watch Obama's inauguration live. We definitely started off a little irritated that it took so long for the class to begin.

Once it started, we were with about 10 other couples, all of us in our first pregnancies. The facilitators of the class were two mid-wives at the hospital. It is fair to say that Kristoffer and I were both underwhelmed, because most of the class discussed things that we have already gone through and experienced in addition to the fact that the lead mid-wife was very slow and everything she talked about could have been condensed to about 30 minutes total. People were very shy to talk and there wasn't a lot done to encourage trust and sharing. As a teacher by training, I don't do that well sitting in a class that I think is being taught poorly because I just think of all the things I would be doing to engage my students instead of the topic at hand.

We are definitely farther along in our pregnancy than anyone else in the class; most people are around 28 weeks and I am in my 34th week. The facilitators were like, "You should be taking a weekend crash course! You might not make it through all 6 of these classes!" That is very true, but I had previously been told that there were no upcoming weekend classes. Last night they said that this coming weekend there is a class, but we have friends coming from Denmark and Kristoffer would not be able to attend the class with me if I chose to do it (which defeats part of the purpose: for partners to learn how to support mothers during labor and delivery!).

So class started 30 minutes late, after 45 minutes there was a 20 minute tea/snack break (it is nice that the hospital provided snacks and beverages) and then it was almost 7:45pm which is when we planned to make our exit. We hung on a few minutes longer as the mid-wife talked about some possible solutions to aches and pains we might be feeling (note: I pretty much had every pregnancy symptom she described so she got the impression that I was really suffering in my pregnancy, but that is not true. I have probably had very mild versions of every symptom and because I am farther along than everyone else in the class I have already experienced more third trimester symptoms than the rest of them). I suppose because we have done a lot of reading throughout the pregnancy we didn't feel there was much new information at all. We finally snuck out at about 7:55pm and we aren't sure what the last minutes of class entailed or how long class actually went!

But we did arrive at our friend Stephanie's in time to hear President Obama's inaugural speech live in its entirety. We had missed his taking of the oath by just two minutes...which is too bad because in the replay it seems that he was pretty giddy as Justice Roberts messed up his lines! While we were not as overcome with emotion as we had been on election night and when he gave his victory speech, we thought his speech was pretty amazing, we were totally jealous of everyone in Washington, DC (because we used to live SOOOO close to the Capitol!), and we were so happy for the change in American leadership. It was an incredible night (save for Ted Kennedy's seizure, that is). We did not stay up for coverage of the parade or any of the inaugural balls, but I am getting caught up on all of that on CNN this morning. We did stay up much later than we usually do and I even slept in one hour later this morning as a result (until 8:00 am - wow!).

Right now, we have high hopes for the future of America and the world, and we have mediocre hopes that our next childbirth classes will be a little bit more engaging and informative than last night's class.

LMW

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January 18, 2009 - Lion or Lioness?

To the left, we have set up a poll to see what people think Simba's sex is. Cast your vote for "a lion" if you think Simba is a boy or for a "lioness" if you think Simba is a girl! We'll give you until Valentine's Day (February 14th) to make up your mind, which is 3 weeks before Simba is due. Feel free to look through our blog pictures to see how I am carrying if you think you know the appropriate old wives tale for telling that way!

Happy voting!

LMW

Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 17, 2009 - 33 weeks down, 7 weeks to go

Today I am 33 full weeks pregnant and feel that I have earned every single one of those weeks! Yesterday we saw my doctor and had a great visit. We told her all about our travels, my doctor's appointments in the US, and current pregnancy symptoms. We also went over this week's ultrasound - sorry, the pictures are really not that fun.

Sometime between Thursday night and Friday afternoon, Simba did turn to get him/herself in position for birth because at my appointment yesterday the doctor could clearly feel that the baby is no longer breech - and I was being kicked in my ribs instead of much further down, which of course is a tell-tale sign. She was not worried about the breech position at this stage to begin with anyway - which was a relief to me - and she did warn us that Simba could turn several times again in the next couple of weeks. 36 weeks is when they normally hope the baby settles in a head-down position, but some babies turn even later. Bottom line: my doctor knows that I really don't want a C-section unless it is absolutely, positively, last-resort necessary. We will see her again in two weeks now (we're down to bi-weekly appointments! crazy!) and will have another ultrasound in three weeks time.

I did the usual urine and blood tests and will get results next week; my blood pressure was lower than it has been in a long time (99/69) so that is something to watch a little bit, but my weight gain is undeniable and she was happy to see that the baby has grown so much. When I told her that I thought the baby was huge because I feel so huge she laughed and reminded me that the baby is surrounded by all kinds of good stuff in there that also add to my weight gain. On Wednesday, our baby was 1918 grams (almost 2 kilos or about 4 lbs) and will continue to gain up to half a pound a week for the next several weeks - s/he is right on schedule. We also learned that, like most doctors in the US I believe, if the baby happens to be very late then I will be induced at 40 weeks + 10 days. Let's hope we don't need that! I will be happy with a few days early or right on time :)

So what's next? Well, we start childbirth classes on Tuesday evening and are both looking forward to that. We know that lots of people don't take them, but we feel that more information is never a bad thing and we like to be as prepared as we could possibly be given that we will probably have no control over how/when the baby decides to enter the world. At my appointment in two weeks we will complete a "booking form" for the hospital, which basically gives all of our info, my doctor's info, our pediatrician's info, birth plan, etc. so they have an idea of how many women are due at what time and so they can be prepared for when we show up! Which brings me to the next big task in the next two weeks: finding a pediatrician. My doctor recommended three pediatricians who I will interview, and then whichever one I select (I say "I" and not "we" because Kristoffer has given me full license to make this decision) will be present at our baby's delivery and for all subsequent appointments, etc.

This weekend we will continue the hunt for baby furniture (does it stress anyone else out that we don't have a changing table yet? forget the crib, at least we have a cradle...but come on!) and hope to finish up the baby's room in the next few weeks. Right now it is just a dumping ground for all things baby (where previously it was a dumping ground for all things to be packed for our trip and before that it was just a dumping ground!).

Yesterday and today we have received/are receiving quite a bit of rain in Nairobi. This is VERY good news as the December rains failed and the country is in a serious drought. We hope and pray that they are getting some of this rain up-country where they need it the most. We could watch the local news to find that out, of course, but in typical Kenya-fashion our cable is not working (because of the rain) and, even as I write this, our internet access is intermittent at best. Welcome back to Kenya ☺

LMW

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 16, 2009 - We Wrote a Book!

Two of our very, very dear friends - Jean and Jennifer Wollan - gave us an incredible Christmas gift this year. They took all of our blogs from our first year of living in Nairobi and published them into a beautiful, hardcover book. The website/software they used to do this is at www.blurb.com and we know that it was a labor (of love)-intensive project. You cannot imagine our surprise to find that our blogs were turned into a 204 page coffee-table book! It is especially cool for our baby to have my pregnancy documented so beautifully.

It is an extremely high quality, although not inexpensive, book; should any of our family/friends/blog readers be interested in purchasing it, just go to this website:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/343771/d3ef72c2b657a3e92fd306fb3a75a903

Thank you, again, to Jean and Jen for such a special gift!

LMW

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 14, 2009 - Not Ready Yet!

Today Kristoffer and I went for Simba's ultrasound. Our little one is measuring to be an average sized baby...which is a surprise to nobody but us probably because I feel SO big that we were thinking the baby might turn out to be huge. Guess that's just my body! I saw a lady at the store just before the ultrasound who is due the exact same day and she was MUCH smaller than I am. She was like, "Really? You aren't due in the next two weeks?" I like to think it is because she was much taller than me, but who knows...everyone body and baby are different!

Back to the ultrasound...Simba's internal organs are all working and in the proper location. S/he had a good heartbeat at 141 beats per minute and there were no more signs of the calcium deposits in the chambers of his/her heart as we had seen in our last ultrasound. We actually found that the images in this ultrasound are much less sharp and clear than in previous ultrasounds; the baby is big enough now that body parts take up more space and the camera can't actually "zoom out" to get a sharper view.

The only bummer is that Simba has not yet "turned" to have his/her head near the exit, if you know what I mean, which explains the constant kicking I still feel very low. S/he was in the fetal position with his/her head up near my ribs, knees bent, and hands totally blocking his/her face. Even though the doctor tried with the 4D camera to get a good look at the baby's face, Simba was totally hiding. The ultrasound doc (different than my actual obstetrician) said that we should have another ultrasound in 4 more weeks to determine if the baby is still in a "breech" position; if so, then at that time we could discuss delivery options with our doctor. Most doctors prefer to deliver breech babies via cesarean. However, I am not at all comfortable discussing the "c word" yet and from everything I have read our baby still has plenty of time to turn him/herself around before entering the world. We will discuss this more with my doctor at our regular appointment on Friday. I tend to think Simba's position is just his/her way of telling us that s/he is not ready to come out yet...and that is OK by us :)

If any of the ultrasound pictures come out clearly I will post them on Friday, but we thought they were much less cool than previous pictures we've seen. No waving this time! We start our childbirth class on Tuesday night - two hours, once a week, for six weeks - which means that we will finish the class about 10 days before Simba is due. Let's just hope that we don't give the final lesson by delivering our baby during that last class!

LMW

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13, 2009 - The Total Expat Life

Today is the first day that Kristoffer and I have full-time "staff" working for us.

Charles, our driver, is someone that we wanted to hire before but he was already employed and we couldn't compete with his salary at that job. He contacted Kristoffer on Sunday to say that he had been let go and would accept the position if the offer was still on the table. Indeed it was! So today he arrived at 7 am sharp to drive Kristoffer to work. When he came back home he washed the car - inside and out - and casually waited for me to be ready to go somewhere!

Ida, our housekeeper/cook/future baby helper, arrived at 9:30 with some of her belongings. She will be living in our staff quarters from now on - Monday through Saturday afternoon - and so we needed to go get her some furniture. Charles, Ida and I headed for Ngong Road...the road where many carpenters' shops are and where you can pull over to buy or order furniture. Some of the furniture we have came from Ngong Rd (dining room table, desk). It didn't take very long for us to find a suitable single bed and some shelves for Ida's room...I learned quickly that carpenters are much more likely to give a Mzungu lady a fair price when she has a Kenyan negotiator with her. Ida helped us get good prices for sure! Then we proceeded to go to Nakumatt - the super store - to buy a mattress for Ida's new bed and to get her some personal items that she would need, along with food and cleaning supplies for the house.

All went well, but it did feel a bit strange for me to be driving around in my own car with two people who work for me. I mean, never did I ever think I would be in this situation (prior to a few months ago, that is).

Now Charles has taken Ida back to her real home to finish picking up the rest of her things (linens and stuff) and I opted to stay home and eat lunch, write a blog, and take a nap. Her bed is being delivered in about an hour so I think I can squeeze some shut eye in.

I suppose it will take some getting used to, but I can already sense how expats get addicted to this lifestyle. Contrary to what pops into one's head when thinking about living in Africa...we are so not roughing it!

LMW

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12, 2009 - A Full Recap of our Holiday Trip

Today is my first day home alone in Nairobi as Kristoffer has gone back to work and I am left to nest and rest after five weeks of jam-packed holiday fun. At 32 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I look something like this (photo taken yesterday):



Here is a super long blog with more details on what we've been up to...feel free to skim it or skip it altogether. The bottom line is that we had a great trip and are happy to be back in Nairobi to wait for Simba's big entrance into the world.

Three Weeks in the United States

Kristoffer was very happy that shortly after we arrived in Boston, it was already snowing! And it snowed several times, which was really fun for him to play outside with Michael, Sean, Molly, Matthew and Nathan, but definitely threw a wrench in several of our plans to visit with family and friends. While in the US, we took the US's economic situation into our own hands and spent our well-saved dollars on a few big ticket items that we want to have for a long time, such as a new camera (perfect for photographing Simba) and a new laptop. We also stocked up on basic items, like clothes and shoes, that we find WAY too expensive to purchase in Nairobi. Lastly, we baby-shopped, baby-shopped, and then baby-shopped some more!

I was so lucky to have been given a lovely baby shower at my mother's house with almost all of my friends and local family attending. They showered me and Simba with so much love, and so many generous gifts, that we ended up being able to bring even more baby stuff back to Nairobi than anticipated (and when I say "we", I mean me and Kristoffer, of course, but also my parents who are coming the week I am due and bringing a big load of baby gear!).

At home in the US, we enjoyed driving on the right side of the road and were amused to be constantly walking into people in stores when we were staying to the left and they were, obviously, staying to the right. Kristoffer loved watching American football...and I was surprised how little American TV I watched! There was just no time!

Our trip to NYC, albeit brief, was really fun. We spent one night in New Jersey with our friends Omar, Domenica, and Luke and two nights with Jean in Manhattan. The visit with my cardiologist went well, although he was actually stuck in surgery and I had to see a different doctor than him. Basically, my pacemaker is working well and operating at 3% of the time, which is 2.5% more than when I wasn't pregnant. This means it is very good that I got a new, fully-working pacemaker, even if the process was slightly dramatic. In NY, we also visited the school I used to work at and had a really fun evening with most of my close friends from working there. It was a great trip! We were even able to have a wonderful breakfast with my roommate from freshman year at Syracuse, Nasheema. On our way back to my parents in Massachusetts, we stopped for a night in Connecticut and had a great visit with Brooke and Dave before Christmas.

As my previous blogged mentioned, Christmas was a great time with my family. In the days leading up to the holiday we were able to visit with some aunts and uncles and cousins in the area, although one large family party was cancelled because of really bad winter weather and we didn't quite get to see everyone we would have seen there. Kristoffer and I were thrilled to have so many great days with all of my siblings who were with us for the holiday.

It was a little bit hard to say goodbye, especially to my siblings, knowing that such a big life event will occur before we see most people again, but at least my parents will be here in just 7 more weeks!

Below is a slide show of some of our moments in the US...unfortunately, we didn't take pictures of everything we did or everyone we saw, but we do have a sampling here:



Two Weeks in Denmark


In Denmark a little bit of jet-lag, as well as the season's cold, grey weather and lack of sunlight, made me a bit more tired than I had been in the US. We spent several great days with each of Kristoffer's parents and had four different occasions to spend time with his brother's family as well. After seeing all of his family at his grandmother's birthday, we were able to also see many of Kristoffer's friends - including all of the guys who were in our wedding. I got to meet some of his friends from college who I had never met before. It was really fun! We spent two days in Copenhagen walking around and around in the freezing cold to see all these different people...not necessarily what I thought I would be doing at this stage of my pregnancy, but it worked out really well.

New Years Eve with Kirsten and Hans was very fun...we ate well, played cards, and watched an incredible fireworks display from the top of a hill behind their house at midnight. Danes are CRAZY about their new year's fireworks! In Denmark we didn't do that much shopping, although Kristoffer was able to find two suits for work (American suits don't fit him so well!), ordered some new glasses, and we even found a cradle to bring home for the baby (which Kristoffer promptly put together the minute we got home). We did do a lot of eating (a theme carried over from the US) and, while in the US we met two new baby boys (children of my friends Joanna and Sarah), we got to meet two new baby girls in Denmark (children of Kristoffer's cousin Klaus and our friends Lars and Barbara). Those experiences definitely made us eager for our own baby's arrival in less than 8 weeks.

In Denmark we also did things like walk on the beach and play in the forest - both very Danish things to do despite the cold weather. We ended our trip at Kirsten's and Hans drove us back to Hamburg this past Friday where we spent a night at the airport's Marriott hotel so that we could be at the airport bright and early for our day of travel.

Again, we don't have too many great pictures of all of the people we saw (we really have to get better at taking pictures now that we have a new great camera!), but here are a few pictures of our visit in Denmark:



Our overall assessment of our trip is that we didn't get to see very many people for a long period of time, but we did get to see a lot of people for a short period of time and that was really nice.

Back in Nairobi

We arrived in Kenya late Saturday night after a long day of travel. I thankfully did not go into labor on the plane (did you read that story recently about the woman flying from Europe to Boston?!) and despite some backaches and general discomfort, it was a good and easy trip. One of the first things we noticed is that some roads have really been improved since we have been gone. We also quickly learned that Kenya hasn't had ANY rain since we left, which means the harvest did not yield a sufficient crop, and the country has declared a state of emergency due to severe food shortages. Of course, it is not only due to the lack of rain. Because of last year's post-election violence (oh my goodness, remember what we were going through at this time last year?!?!) fewer crops were planted and alternately many planted crops were burned. In July, the country had an opportunity to buy a lot of maize from Tanzania to prepare for food shortages at this time, but the Minister of Agriculture insisted that there would not be a food crisis (note: we are not big fans of the Minister of Agriculture). And here we are now with over 10 million Kenyans in danger of starvation. We will be watching to see how the government handles this situation...Kristoffer does not work in emergency operations at WFP but we do know that WFP is being pressured to increase its food assistance.

The weather here is like paradise...very warm/hot and sunny during the day, cooler at night, no humidity. Of course, after the freezing cold of New England and Denmark, this has been a bit of a shock to our systems! Our jet-lag is not so bad right now because Denmark is only 2 hours behind Kenya, but our adjustment to the altitude can definitely be felt. Yesterday I generally felt pretty yucky and so I am taking it very easy. It was a surprise to me, I will admit, how nice it was to walk into my own house and sleep in my own bed the last two nights. We loved our five weeks of vacation and had a wonderful time, but there was certainly an element of exhaustion to all of our travel and now I am grateful not to have to go anywhere...except to the hospital to deliver this baby!

We have touched base with both of our neighbors who we are friends with here - one of them gave us a jump yesterday when our car wouldn't start and the other is extremely grateful that we let him use our house for his family reunion while we were away - and so it feels like we are in a strange way back where we belong. I never thought I would say that a year ago!

General Pregnancy Update

As for my pregnancy...I have increased third trimester symptoms for sure: more leg cramps at night (although I am doing exercises, thanks to Kristoffer's step-sister Marianne, to prevent these and it seems to be working in the last week), increased swelling in my feet, ankles and hands, some braxton hicks (early practice) contractions, lower back discomfort, constantly going to the bathroom, some more nausea similar to my first trimester, and general lethargy as a result of my enormous and ever-growing belly. I am having an ultrasound on Wednesday and will see my doctor on Friday afternoon; we are also waiting to get a schedule of childbirth classes we can take sometime in the next month. I have gained about 25 lbs to date, so my worries from earlier in the pregnancy when I wasn't gaining weight have been allayed.

Finally, our new staff begin working tomorrow (live-in housekeeper/cook and non-live-in driver) which I anticipate being an interesting experience for all of us. I will definitely report back on that in the coming days too. For now, I am ready to get up and stretch and finish unpacking!

LMW