Auf Wiedersehen München

AufWiedersehenMünchen

Six and half years in Munich is closing to its end. We came here because my husband got a job “here”. “Here” in quotation marks because this very same job he is now taking with him back to Finland and to home office.

These years have been tough. I thought that after living abroad before, it wouldn’t be so hard to move to Germany. To the country I had visited more times I cared to count. It was a familiar country, and I had even studied the language a bit in past. Munich seemed very appealing too: city with over 1 million people, beautifully restored old buildings, lots of cafes, green parks, river, close to the Alps… Economy back in 2011/2012 was doing much better (and still is) than in Finland. Surely, I would find employment easily, I thought, and would find my place in this new town.

Two days before we moved to Munich, we had gotten married in Helsinki. We had talked about children. (I had always thought that I would have three children. In my late-teens/early 20s I had a dream of three boys, AND if there was a fourth child, it would be a girl. I don’t think I had ever heard of infertility back then.) We had started to try for a baby already before our move to Munich, and I was hoping that it would happen very quickly.

Year and half later, after some tests were done, my gynaecologist gave me a brochure from a reproductive medical clinic. Three rounds of IVF, several embryo transfers, many moments of despair and sadness.

I had not found employment in Munich in my first year. I had spent it studying the language and accompanying my husband on his business travels all over the world. Second year, I continued to learn German, travelled with my husband, and applied to an MBA program at the Technical University of Munich, got accepted, and started it with great hopes…

With that decision I’m still struggling with. I don’t think I have ever felt so out of place and uncomfortable and insecure as I did during the MBA studies. During the studies I was so highly stressed that I got palpitations, insomnia, was feeling mentally absolutely exhausted, and lonely. I had hoped to establish good connections with people studying with me – I didn’t. I hoped that it would, at least, help me find employment here in Munich, and well, it kind of did.

At some stage my husband told me that it would not bother him if I didn’t finish the studies. I, however, could not give up, even though still today, three years later, I don’t like to tell people I did an MBA. So many bad memories that I rather forget it.

Even though, I felt very out of place during those studies, I didn’t get poor results. Not great, but good results nevertheless. Craziest credit I got was that I was told by the person teaching public speaking that I was in top 10% of the class in public speaking. In a class of 33 it isn’t a big deal, but probably the only memory giving me some feelings of accomplishment.

Doing an MBA and fertility treatments were not a great combination for me. On the other hand, what is a good combination for fertility treatments anyway.

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The best memory of Munich is the one that is currently babbling in his room with his daddy about building legos, playing Moomin domino, going out to kick his brand new Bayern München soccer ball…

In 2015, we started our fourth IVF round in Salzburg, Austria. Laws regulating fertility treatments are slightly more relaxed in Austria than in Germany, and since we had heard of one really good clinic there, we wanted to give it a try. One, long round of IVF, two viable embryos on the day of transfer (one best grade, one ok-ish) and finally it worked. I had an easy pregnancy, and looking now back, the later part of the pregnancy was one of the happiest times I’ve had here in Munich. So care free. In January 2016 our little boy Alvar was born. And if Munich otherwise did not give us much happiness, this one did happen here!

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Last year my attempts to work here in Munich did not work out. (After the MBA experience, this holds the second place in terms of stress, anxiety, and feeling bad about myself.)  Almost exactly a year ago, I started to look more broadly for employment. I managed to get into interviews with an organisation based in Stockholm. I didn’t get the job, but that made me and my husband to rethink relocation seriously. First, we thought we would wait until I got a job in Finland (or elsewhere), but then the uncertainty of how long this would take, drove us to a decision to make a move irrespective of my work situation.

Finland was an easy choice. Family and many friends would be close by, and the society seems to be a bit more in favour of work-life balance. And my German husband loves Finland!

For almost a year we were following the housing market, and this spring, in early April we flew over to see some houses for the first time. Second time a month later, and then in late May third time, after our offer on a house got accepted…! We are house-owners? This still feels unreal.

We found a nice house some 20 minutes outside of Helsinki city centre in a small town. It has a small garden that has a big patio, sand pit, and no grass, but is in its natural state. All the services are close by, daycare and school is close, it is quiet and clean. I will not miss the sounds of traffic and sirens 24/7, drug dealing and occasional needles at our front door.

Of course, there will be things that I will miss from Munich. Nothing is ever so black and white, and no place is perfect. (Oh, how I wish there was a magical way of combining different elements from different places and make that ideal place!) But right now, I feel happy to leave this city behind. So much loneliness and pain is tied to this place in my mind.

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In two weeks time we will be on our way to Travemünde to board a ferry that will take us across the Baltic Sea to Helsinki and to our new home. This coming week is our last in our apartment here in Munich. The very last week in Munich, we will be staying in a hotel (not looking forward to that), and on Friday 27th we will leave this city behind.

I know leaving doesn’t change everything, and one cannot escape from herself, but there is a tiny little glimmer of hope in me that this will at least give me a better chance to turn a new page in my life.

Perhaps it will be easier to ease and deal with my depression (haven’t told about that much; it lifted its ugly head last year after the work stuff went the way it did).

Looking forward to spend more time with my family and friends.

And I’m hoping that our little Munich miracle will enjoy his new home and surroundings too.

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Nine drafts

It has been a very, very, veeeeery long break on blogging. I actually thought that I have quitted this. Given up on the whole thing. Just coming in to check other people’s blogs occasionally.

But of course it hasn’t meant that thoughts on what to write would have stopped. That has been my biggest problem all along. So many thoughts, so many things I would love to write about, and and and… No ready text. None. what. so. ever.

Just looked in and noticed that I have nine drafts. All of them have some of thoughts on them, and then- stop.

Here I am. Soon a 41 year old mother of one. One miracle boy that I thought that I would never have! Rounds of ivfs, transfers, hopes, disappointments, tears, fears, and then he suddenly was there!

This January he turned already two years. My sweet little boy.

I never imagined that having a child would be so much fun! I had heard more of all the struggles of being a mum, and how it is tough when the child comes and the life changes, it is tiring, and you won’t have time for yourself any more, etc… Yes, it did change, yes, it has been tiring too, and there has been less time for myself and for the relationship. But then again, I had all the time in the world for 39 years! I’m pretty happy (most of the time) to give my time to my child, share it with him. And now that he has been sleeping all through the nights for the last year, the major tiredness has passed. (Occasionally, it comes back, of course, when he is sick or wakes up at night to some bad dreams or something.)

All in all, I feel very privileged to have this chance to experience being a mum. To see how my child grows, develops and learns. It is just amazing! And there are more and more of those funny moments too when he has learned and is learning to talk more and more!

Motherhood has been natural. Sometimes I have been thinking that in my case it probably hasn’t been bad that I became mother at the age of 39. In many things I am a very insecure person, I doubt my own abilities, I feel bad for myself in terms what I have achieved in my life. Especially, when it comes to career. I often fear that I have missed that bandwagon all together.

But with motherhood my insecurities have been minimal. I haven’t questioned my abilities, capabilities. I have believed in myself. And I don’t know how. Perhaps it is due to love? Perhaps due to life experience? Perhaps a mix of those two. I haven’t felt pressure to meet any outside standards as a mother. I haven’t really taken any outside comments or advice too much into my heart, if it has been contradicting with my own understanding and knowledge. Mind you, that hasn’t happened that much either- perhaps because I’m an old mum?! 😉

I am secure in myself that I am doing my best- loving and caring for my child to the best of my abilities and knowledge, and that also includes mistakes and short-comings because perfection doesn’t exist.

If only I could be this confident in other areas of my life…

I am struggling with career stuff. As much as I love being mother, I am not a person who is completely full-filled with this. I need more. I want to find a job, career, my own thing too. Sometimes I feel that there’s no hope in that regard any more. I’m too old. I have missed my chances of creating a career. Other days, I shrug my shoulders and think: “Who cares? Why can’t I start now? It’s never too late to start!” Unfortunately, it is tough to keep that latter mindset when the job search is not going well, and the only feedback is thank you, but no thank you.

Well, this was a bit of laa-de-daa-de-daa update, I fear… But I hope to be able to write something a bit deeper in not so distant future. Thoughts about our upcoming move back to Finland (!), growing multi-lingual, tiny little hopes of another child, big little hopes of a job, toddler development, travels, moments of fun & sun… And about thoughts when the clouds are covering the sky.

Nine drafts, tenth is a completed text!

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How the nights became ours to sleep again

Almost two months ago my son turned one. That was just unbelievable! Amazing how fast the last year has gone by. And I’m simply astonished how much one year has brought, changed, and taken. In my last blog post, couple of days before Christmas, and as the title of the post was saying, we were planning on doing some sleep training with our little fella.

And sleep training we did! And now, two months later we are wondering why in the earth we did not do it earlier?! Before we started the sleep training, I was researching and reading things about it, and one of my favourite sites for it turned out to be Dr Craig Canapari’s blog Evidence-based advice for better sleep in kids, teens, and parents. The whole blog spoke to me, the advice sounded very practical and also the comments from other people, and the fact that Dr Canapari is taking his time to respond to people commenting his blog posts made an impression on me.

After reading his blog posts and checking out links to other experts, I quickly realised that our son had inappropriate sleep onset associations.

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Right before we started the sleep training we were in a situation where after the evening routine (we’ve had a bedtime routine in place since our son was born, so that was not a new thing for us, and that we really didn’t have to change it a great deal) one of us would sit by our son’s bed, holding his hand so long that he would fall in sleep. Often this took  no longer than 15 minutes, (rarely up to 30-40 minutes), and that was actually fine. The problem was that when our son would wake up during the night, two or three times a night, he needed hand holding to fall back asleep. Often at early morning hours we found ourselves freezing by his bed, holding his hand for very long times, because for some reason he would instantly wake up when we took our hand away.

So how did we do training? I know there are lots and lots of views on cry-it-out -method, and how bad it is and sounds… However, in our case – and perhaps we are very lucky – it worked very quickly and without too much crying and feeling bad! We followed the five minute rule: after putting our little fella into bed, I sang a song, and said good night, how much I love him, sleep well, sweet dreams and see you in the morning… and then I walked out. In the first night he cried, and I entered after five minutes. He calmed straight away. After staying a short while, saying the same good night, love you, sleep well, sweet dreams and see you in the morning, I walked out again, and he cried… I waited for six minutes this time… Yes, these are some of the longest minutes! But already before six minutes were over, he was quiet and fallen asleep! The following night we had to go in after six minutes, and started to count for the seven minutes, but didn’t reach it: he had fallen asleep!

The most amazing thing? His nightly wakings also disappeared to most part: in the beginning he woke up couple of times during the night, one of us went in (usually my husband), checked all was ok,  but no hand holding sessions to get him back to sleep. We were expecting that there would be some relapses after three, four nights, and it would get really hard, but that did not happen. After almost a year of not sleeping a single night through, we finally were there! Our son goes to bed around 7:30/8pm and wakes up between 6:10-6:30am.

Our bedtime routine is always the same, and currently it is like this: After his evening porridge it is time for butt washing, then pyjamas on, teeth brushing, cuddling up on a chair to read a night-time story, putting our son to bed, turning the light off, singing a song, saying good night and walking out. No crying, no fuss. Before we started the sleep training, the routine was pretty much the same, except that I was still breastfeeding and that happened after his evening porridge and he often got very sleepy and we were not then reading any night-time story, teeth brushing was the last thing before bed and hand holding.

I had started to reduce the number of breastfeeding times already earlier before he started in day-care. Then throughout the Christmas time I was slowing reducing it first to two times per day (morning and evening), then to ones a day, then kept a day in between free, and on the eve of his first birthday I had weaned him off. It went better than expected, he didn’t seem to miss it (lots of cuddling and kissing in any case!), and my boobs took it well too- not really discomfort at all.

What else did we change?

When we decided on the training, we agreed that we would do things exactly the same, my husband and I. We also decided that we would not continue to be the pacifier fetchers for our son. That had most likely also contributed to the nightly wakings, him losing the pacifier, waking up and needing us to give it back. We ended up putting several pacifiers into the corner of his bed, we stopped giving the pacifier to him, we let him self pick it when he is put to bed, and that has helped. At nights he has been then finding the other pacifiers if he has lost one, and no need for us picking the pacifier. Recently, when we have had several visitors and he has been sleeping in our bedroom, I have noticed that he only seems to need the pacifier to fall asleep in the evening. He hasn’t had the pacifier in his mouth any more later when we have got to bed, and also in the morning he hasn’t picked pacifier into his mouth (busy talking!). Perhaps this would be the time to get rid of them once and for all?

At day-care, our son has now adjusted to have only one nap during the day. He sleeps about two, two and half, up to three hours every day between 12-3pm. Couple of months ago, he still needed an early morning nap, around 10am, but this often meant that he would not fall asleep before later in the afternoon, and at day-care that was not working out, and he slowly got used to being up until the midday nap time. After that happened, he usually would get sleepy also around 5pm, and sometimes had a nap on my lap then (max. 20 minutes), but also this has now dropped away.

One more thing what we also changed with the sleep training was our mornings. Before, we had always picked our son up since woke up so early (often before or around 5am) and brought him to our bed to lay there for a little while, cuddle and look at his books or toys to give us a chance to rest a little longer, even if being awake. Now, there is no more lounging in the bed. When he wakes up, it means we get up! Lights turn on in the kitchen, coffee by the table, not in the bed… And breakfast for all! But since we are waking AND getting up around 6:30am that is of course fine!

And then, on 26th March daylight saving begins…

Sleep training for Christmas break

In the first months after a baby is born, one is expecting to be jumping up all night to nurse and take care of the little human being. At least I was, and the reality was no different for me. Of course there were some hopes that perhaps my son would be like I had been: sleeping nights through from six week of age onwards! (And now I know why my parents always said that I was an easy child..!) My son was not like I had been.

He is still not a great sleeper and he is approaching one year. There has been nights when he has slept through the night (anything till 5am I consider sleeping through the night), but I can count the times when that has happened with the fingers on my hands.

First months after he was born I was managing ok. (Well, actually good!) I was dead tired, but still often thought that I could or should feel way worse with the amount of sleep I was getting. In summer, we rented a cottage in Finland, and there in the middle of nowhere, far from neighbours, we did some sleep training to quit nightly nursing. That worked out really well, it took only two nights, and for a moment it looked like it was going to improve the nights all in all… But no, not really. Our son still kept waking up, and even though I didn’t nurse him, I still woke up to his noises and cries.

This is how things are still at the moment. There are some good nights, but mostly the nights are broken, and now that the cold and flu season has hit the town, the good nights are scarce.

Earlier in the year, I was still thinking and dreaming of a second child. Although, even at that time I was thinking how non-rational that wish was, but the thought of never holding a newborn in my arms again made my heart ache as my son had grown out of the newborn stage. (I did realise back then too, that the chances were teeny tiny for that to ever happen, because I won’t- I can’t- go through the ivf process again. The toll on my mental health was too great. And I’m not sure I could possibly face again the uncertainties that come with pregnancy at older age.)

Today, I’m no longer thinking or dreaming of a second child- except for a four-legged furry brother or sister. I simply feel too old and tired for it. My heart still aches when I look at the newborn photos of my son, but to go through all this again… Oh no..! I seriously feel AND look like I have aged ten years within one year.

Even though wrinkles on my face have quadrupled, the thing that bothers me the most is my memory. I have always had a pretty good memory, but that has taken a vacation now. I forget things, I write lists and I forget, I talk to people and I forget, I listen to people and I forget. And what scares me a bit is not when I fill up the coffee machine water tank with milk, but the fact that I want to find a job. And not really the finding part, but in case (when) I get one, how will I manage that with a brain like this..?!

Although, this job search might take a while.

I’m turning forty in April, I have two university degrees, I speak four languages, I have been moving around a lot, and hence, have only short work experiences from very varying fields. A recent visit to the local government employment agency gave me no false hopes, when the employment advisor there (bless you, direct Germans!) told me that “you don’t have work experience”. And when I protested and said that that is not true, she bluntly pointed out that “you haven’t worked in the last five years, and you haven’t worked at all in Germany.” Yes, all true, but it isn’t like I would haven just sat on my butt all this time. I have learned a new language, studied a new degree (that hopefully makes me more employable!!), and then got a baby.

Anyway, let’s see how this evolves.

(I have to admit though, talking about work and career makes me always feel like a failure, and it is an area where all my insecurities are having a feast. No matter how hard I try to tell myself that person’s value is not tied to their career success, I fail to believe it in my own case. When I was younger I had of course career dreams and ambitions, and for a while it looked like it was going to work out nicely- to have an interesting job/career. But then life happened, and I made- had to make in some cases- decisions that were not favourable for a career development.)

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Couple of more days before it is Christmas! The first Christmas with my son! Am so looking forward to the big family gathering of my husband’s side of the family. There are three cousins waiting to see our son, and I love seeing the excitement in kids in Christmas! My husband will be off work until January and that gives us some time after the Christmas days to focus on sleep too. In a form of sleep training.

There are lots of people who are for sleep training, and then there are those who are against it. As with so many other things in the world of parenting, I think there are no right or wrong in this thing. One has to do what is best for their family. I found the sleep training extremely hard in summer, and despite of the sleep deprivation, I could not bring myself to do it this autumn. My husband was travelling a lot, so I was not going to do it on my own, and then my son got the first colds and ear infection, so not a time for sleep training either. But now I’m mentally prepared that between Christmas and new year we will do some sleep training (unless he is sick or something). I need to get most of my nights back, I desperately need the sleep.

Longing for my family

Most of my adult life, the last 20 years, I have lived abroad.  Despite of living even far away from my family, homesickness has only been an occasional quest. Curiosity and ability to adjust relatively quickly to a new country, city, environment, language and culture probably has helped a lot.

For the last five years we have been living in Germany, and I don’t consider it to be far away from Finland. Home sickness hasn’t been visiting here either… Not before last summer.

And again last night.

Last summer it hit me when we, after a two week cottage holiday close to my family, were driving away towards the airport. I had departed my parents and sister with dry eyes, but then about a kilometre further, tears were pouring down my cheeks. I was sitting at the back seat with our son, and my husband who was driving, met my eyes through the mirror, and he too had tears in the corners of his eyes.

We do skype and facetime a lot with our families and friends who live further away, so that they can see the development of the little one, and the little one gets to see and hear them, so that after longer times apart, he will recognise them. Last week my sister came for a visit, and it was really nice to have her around, and to see how the little one clearly enjoyed his auntie’s company. But four days go by quickly, and yesterday morning she had to leave.

It was the two of us alone again. My husband has to travel a fair bit for his work, and is currently away. He left last Friday and is coming back on Saturday. It is only a bit over a week, goes quickly, but last night I so could have cuddled up next to him. I was feeling home sick. Missed having my parents, my sister, around.

And I’m not completely alone, I have the little one here, but how I wish the physical distance to my family was much, much shorter.

Friends come and go, and come again

While I was still battling infertility, one incident really left a mark in me when it comes to friendships. In general, I have been very lucky that most of my close friendships have lasted through the difficult times, and even gotten better. But I guess there always have to be one. That one that surprises you, and makes you baffled, not believing that you will get your skis across* with that friend. Happened to me.

(*Finnish proverb)

A friend that has always seemed so gentle, deep, emphatic, and beautiful inside and out. It therefore came as a shock that this particular friend did react in a way I never thought could have been possible.

She got married, we travelled across the world to be there. They tried for a baby, and got straight away pregnant while we were going through and failing the treatments. I had couple of years earlier told her we were trying for a baby, but I guess she would have forgotten.

During her pregnancy, and us going through the unsuccessful treatments, I had hard time keeping in touch with her. But when her baby was born, of course I congratulated, sent a present and card. And couple of months later, I felt that I needed to tell her why I had been keeping less in contact. I felt bad about it, and wanted to explain what had been going on (and was still going on at that time). I was happy for her, but I could not deny that it had been hard for me at the same time.

What her response was I could not have imagined in million years. She was angry, she was accusing me for making her feel insensitive, and saying that I should put myself into her shoes to see how she was feeling, etc.

Still today, I don’t understand how that happened. Never ever it crossed my mind that she would react the way she did. I tried to mend things, but her responses did not change, and all I could do was to give up. For a long time I was wondering what to do, how to make things good again. I could not come up with an answer, I did not know how to talk to her, what to say, and I’m not good in pretending that nothing at all happened.

I lost one friendship, and it really bothered me. Did I not know her well enough?

People keep surprising.

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Year later, I gained a friendship, or found an old friendship anew.

My oldest friend, a friend I have known all my life, came back to my life. I mean, she has always been there, being a close friend to my sister, but we had lost direct contact. There was about 20 years time when it felt we were completely in a different wave length, our lives were very different (they still are), and we had nothing much to talk and share.

However, my sister invited her to my surprise baby shower last autumn, and since then she has already twice visited us here in Munich (she lives in Finland)! After years being on different wave length-and yes, our lives are still different- we somehow found the mutual frequency again.

People come and go, and sometimes, they come again.

 

Neighbours

Living far away from family really highlights the importance of good friends and neighbours. Just tonight I had to rely on our neighbours.

I was just putting our son to bed, when my husband called and told me that he had been in an accident. He had collided with his bike on his way home from work, and was in an ambulance on his way to a hospital for a check up. His main worries were that I should not get worried, and could I come and lock the bike that someone was bringing over to the hospital.

We happen to live very close to the clinic, so it would not be a problem to quickly go over and lock the bike. However, our little fellow had just fallen asleep, and I did not want to wake him up, if not absolutely necessary. So I rang our neighbour’s doorbell and the young guy answered the door. I had hoped for the girl to be home since I know her better, and most of all, our little one has seen her more often that he has seen the guy. I explained the situation and he came over straight away.

I ran over to the clinic, found my husband’s bike (not looking bad at all! What a relief!), locked it, and came back home, since my husband was right then in for x-rays.

Little one had slept, not woken up, when I got back. And the neighbour assured that he was going to be home all night, and could definitely come over again, if we needed that later on.

It has been three hours now, and am waiting to hear the results of my husband’s head CT scan. If all is good, he will be coming home soon.

*****

These same neighbours saved me last summer too. We live on a top floor of an old building, right underneath the roof. In summer, when the sun is shining and it’s hot outside, it gets hot here inside too. There is no air conditioning here (not common to have one). Last summer was stinking hot here, and every morning we opened all the widows to air the apartment out before the sun would warm up the air again.

It was a Saturday morning, I was sitting downstairs, having my breakfast, when I heard this really bizarre noise from upstairs. I ran up the stairs and saw a pigeon sitting on the windowsill… And another one inside of the apartment! The one on the windowsill flew away, and the other one got flapping around inside causing me to panic! I called my husband who was on business trip, and scared him before I was able to tell him that I’m almost hysterical because of a pigeon – not because there would be something wrong with the pregnancy…

I was about three months pregnant, and worried about many things, but I did not know that I would be scared of bloody birds! I mean, I have not been scared of birds before… So, my husband told me to go and ask the neighbour’s guy for help, and I did. Except he wasn’t at home, but his girlfriend was, and she promised to come and help me. Surely enough, she was able to hush the darn bird out through the balcony door fairly quickly. I was saved!

Later on, when I took a present for the neighbour to thank her for her help, I learned that she had been out until 3am that morning, and been happy about sleeping in… Instead she was woken up at 8:30am for a pigeon hunt by a hysterical, pregnant lady!

*****

Still sitting here and waiting to hear results from the CT scan.

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Was sitting and thinking what more to write. Nothing more right now. And then the long awaited message came: both x-ray and CT scan results are good! Husband will be home soon!