Peanut: The Souvenir From Basel

It’s been a while since I last blogged. My last post was in early January, and I wrote about moving back to Kuala Lumpur and saying goodbye to Switzerland after having lived there for four years. I wrote about the things and the people I would miss, and about the move itself. I wrote about bringing Muci back and how he was, at the time, still adapting to his new environment. He has thankfully adapted well, and found several spots around our current home where he deigns to rest his perpetually sleepy feline soul.

I also wrote about closing the Basel chapter of my life, and opening a new one in 2016.

Almost half way through the year, I can say that it is indeed a new chapter in my life.

You see, it wasn’t just Muci or furniture or trinkets that we brought back with us from Basel. There is one other momento I did not mention back in January, for good reason.

If all goes well, Muci’s reign as King of Our Household will soon end, and in two months’ time we will welcome Peanut, the new addition to our family.

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Finding Out

I found out I was pregnant a week before our flight back to Kuala Lumpur, and even that was after I’d spent a good two days walking around Basel town mentally preparing myself to take the test. My friends laugh when I tell them this, not fully understanding why I didn’t immediately run out to the nearest Apotheke and grab half a dozen boxes of home pregnancy tests the moment I suspected something was amiss.

I wanted to be fully mentally and emotionally prepared, you see. I wanted to take into consideration all the risks and possible implications if I were indeed pregnant. We were about to move back to Malaysia, and I had already started looking around for possible jobs. The Mister was about to start work in a position that I knew would take up more of his time than ever before, and the idyllic lifestyle we led in Switzerland would be a thing of the past. I had gotten used to a certain degree of privacy in our household and in our lives. If I were indeed pregnant, would I want to look for a full time job, or something which would provide me more flexibility and time at home? If I opted for the former, would I be willing to give up the privacy of my family and household in return for full time help? And if I chose the latter, would I be sufficiently fulfilled?

I was also aware that first time pregnancies in your late thirties bring with it higher risks of chromosomal defects. In this context I wasn’t looking for solutions or a game plan; I merely wanted to steel myself and be in the right frame of mind should this scenario ever present itself.

I also needed to consider the possibility of me not being pregnant after all, and what that could possibly mean in terms of the internal workings of my body.

After two days of walking around town while mulling over these issues, I decided I was ready to find out. I went to the Apotheke, bought a test, and brought it home. All this was done in secrecy, without the knowledge of The Mister. The next morning, I took the test. I didn’t have to wait too long before I saw the results flashing on the small digital window. Positive, more than 3 weeks, it said.

My reaction?

I was calm. I’d spent the past two days thinking about it, after all. Thank You, I thought to myself immediately. My internal monologue continued: If this is what the universe has in store for me, at this point in my life, then… Challenge, accepted!

I stepped out of the bathroom and called out to The Mister.

“Is anything the matter?” He asked.

“Maybe.” I replied, and showed him the test.

From his reaction, I knew he did not see it coming.

At all.

Keeping It To Ourselves

We decided to keep the good news to ourselves for a while, and wait until I was well into my first trimester before telling even our immediate family members. I just wanted some privacy and time to think about how my body and our lives would change, the preparations and adjustments that would have to be made, and how I wanted to experience this pregnancy. In short, I wanted to have all the answers to the questions I myself had, before I faced those of well-meaning relatives and friends.

Even after announcing the news to our parents and siblings, we requested that they in turn, keep it to themselves for a few more weeks – or at least for as long as I didn’t show. As the weeks progressed, we slowly started telling our closest friends, and once I started showing, I just allowed my bump to speak for itself.

The First Trimester

I have been extremely fortunate. I haven’t had any nausea, cravings, or aversions to any types of food or smells. The only signs I had during my first trimester were the acute hunger pangs and the sudden urge to nap in the middle of the day. Looking back, my luck went beyond just lack of nausea or cravings. Before I realised I was pregnant, I was happily lifting boxes and luggage, standing on chairs to clean out kitchen shelves which were out of my reach, and scrubbing every inch of the bathroom and kitchen as we prepared for our move back to Malaysia. My sister-in-law also visited us during the time, and the two of us made a quick trip to London, going up and down Tube stations with our luggage and exploring the city on foot for hours at at time. With all that activity, I was very lucky that nothing happened.

I did find that my appetite was more voracious than usual, and that I retired to bed earlier than I normally do; but at the time, I put it down to all the packing and moving, and also to the fact that it was winter.

Once I realised that it wasn’t the weather or the move that was causing the hunger pangs and the naps, and that it was actually a tiny little living thing eating up all my energy reserves, I was more cautious. I immediately surrendered kitty litter duties, took a break from my normal morning coffee routine, and started keeping an eye on what and how often I ate. I wanted to make sure what I was eating had all the necessary nutrients, but I didn’t want to use pregnancy as an excuse for gluttony. As far as possible, I wasn’t going to allow the ever popular “eating for two” to become my mantra. Heavy lifting was also out of the question. When our shipment arrived in KL, I was banned from lifting anything (!) and was instead assigned the role of supervisor. Packing list and clipboard in hand,  I sat by the door, checking off each box as it was carried into the house. It was one of those moments where you’re given a task which seems half important, but in reality makes you feel even more useless than usual.

Once back in Kuala Lumpur, I took a blood test to confirm my pregnancy, which came out positive – surprise, surprise.  I then made an appointment to see an obgyn specialist. As I was already 8 weeks or so by then, she could already conduct an ultrasound test, and that was the first time I saw Peanut.

The Second Trimester

All the books I’d read and friends who’d had the experience told me that the second trimester would be the best time of my pregnancy. It was when most of the nausea would be gone, and when energy levels would go back up. In my experience, however, I couldn’t really tell the difference. I’d had no nausea to begin with, and apart from the midday naps which seemed to lessen in frequency and duration, my energy levels seemed the same. If it weren’t for my growing tummy, I often “forgot” that I was pregnant – in the sense that I felt perfectly fine and normal, and could continue walking around at my normal pace and run errands as usual. In fact, for the most part of my first and second trimesters, being pregnant was a very surreal experience; the logical, rational part of me knew that I was growing a human being inside my belly, but I didn’t physically or emotionally feel anything. I’d started making plans for Peanut, of course – in terms of immediate nursery essentials and longer term education plans (!) – but they were all logical and rational parenting decisions, rather than gushy motherhood emotions.

My monthly checkups at the obgyn went smoothly, and Peanut seemed to be growing just fine without any complications. In my 14th week, we could hear Peanut’s heartbeat. Again, I felt no gush of warm fuzzy emotion; what crossed my mind instead was how amazing nature and the human body was, and how mankind has progressed so far as to be able to detect, amplify, and make audible the tiny heartbeat inside a woman’s womb.

At around this time my bump was getting increasingly prominent, and I could no longer wear a lot of my normal clothes. I spent many moments wistfully standing in front of my wardrobe, bidding a temporary goodbye to my shirts and tops, which I had ambitiously hung according to sleeve length and colour. Sigh. I’d wake up in the mornings and declare to The Mister, “I have nothing to wear!” and walk lifelessly to my wardrobe, opening it with a flourish and then standing there with my shoulders slumped, sighing loudly. If Peanut turns out to be a drama queen, I have nobody else but myself to blame.

As I progressed further into my second trimester, I began to realise that I could feel Peanut moving. It was a very bizarre sensation; a bit like gas bubbles, or tiny Mexican waves inside my tummy. Once I learnt to recognise those movements, I would pay close attention to my body and monitor which times of the day Peanut moved. Feeling the movements felt both weird and comforting, in that it was a very odd sensation, but gave me an indication that all was well with Peanut. It didn’t however, take anything away from the surrealism of pregnancy. If anything, it merely added to it.

The Third Trimester

As I write this, I am in the 32nd week of my pregnancy. I have just over 8 weeks to go before my expected due date. I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by.

My third trimester so far has been easy and uncomplicated, much like my first and second trimesters. The only difference now is that I am actually starting to feel pregnant. Sitting down and getting up have become increasingly cumbersome; getting into and out of the car takes more effort than usual. It doesn’t help that Muci has become an attention seeker. Oftentimes he throws himself on the floor and looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to rub his belly – which I still do, albeit with more time taken to lower myself to the floor and later bring myself back up again.

By late afternoon, the fatigue kicks in and I start to feel the weight of my protruding belly. By the time I finish cooking dinner (or buka puasa, as it is now Ramadhan), all I want to do is go upstairs and lie down – despite the fact that my day is hardly over. I’ve taken to using a maternity pillow to sleep on, which has helped significantly with the strain on my back. Muci seems to enjoy it too, as I have caught him napping on it several times. I realise the fatigue and the aches will only intensify in the weeks to come, and I am oh so looking forward to it.

Peanut is as active as ever, kicking, punching, somersaulting and heaven knows what else he/she is doing inside there. There are times when the kick or punch is so strong it catches me by surprise and even hurts slightly. There are times when it isn’t a single kick or punch, but a series of quick punches – almost as if Peanut is a coconut-sized boxer furiously practising on a punching bag, or a little cyclist furiously cycling away in my belly. I shudder to think how active a toddler this little critter will be. As amusing as it is though, Peanut’s movements are a sign that all is well in womb-land, and I have no complaints.

Is Peanut a He-Nut or a She-Nut?

We don’t know. We have chosen to remain in blissful ignorance until the day itself, and let the gender be a surprise. In this day and age, when it is possible to see almost every detail of a baby in the womb, right down to the four chambers of his/her heart, it’s nice to leave something unknown. I won’t lie though; I do have a preference – I’m only human after all – but I try hard not to entertain it too much. Boy or girl, it shouldn’t matter, as long as everything turns out well. If Peanut turns out to be a girl, I hope to teach her to be a strong and independent woman. If Peanut is a boy… well, I’ll teach him that women can be intelligent, strong, independent, and just as capable as any man, and that they deserve to be treated as equals; nothing more, and nothing less. 😉

The Final Stretch

With roughly 8 to 9 weeks to go, the reality of labour is starting to sink in. The continued growth and well-being of Peanut is still uppermost on my mind, as anything can happen even in the final stages, but the anxiety of giving birth is slowly creeping out from the inner corners of my mind and looks set to plant itself firmly on the highest rung of my mental anxiety ladder. I’ve been recommended a couple of books on this topic by a friend, and it looks like I shall have to start burying my nose in them very soon.

Some have asked me whether I’ll be going for a natural birth or a C-section, and while everything looks normal now, my answer has been and will continue to be this: I’ll go with whichever procedure is the safest and best option for Peanut and myself at that point in time.

And as for pain relief?

YES, PLEASE. I have absolutely nothing to prove.

What About Muci?

This was actually one of the first few questions that ran through my mind when I first discovered I was pregnant. If you remember from my earlier posts, Muci was put up for adoption by his former owners because he’d gotten jealous of the new baby in the household. He never harmed the baby, but instead went on a hunger strike of sorts and got into fights with the neighbourhood cats. Now that things are about to turn full circle, we may have a situation on our hands. Giving him up is not an option, of course. We will have to find ways to manage him, and he will have to learn to adapt. While he may have to share the throne with Peanut, it goes without saying that his position as favourite feline of the household will remain intact. 🙂

The Beginning of a New Chapter

In many stories, a new chapter is used for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is to introduce the reader to a different set of characters within the same time frame; very often it is a means of progressing from one time frame to the next – but without shutting the doors entirely on the events of the previous chapter.

And so it is here. While this is indeed a new chapter in our lives, it will always be bound to the one before it. We have brought home with us tokens from Basel: memories, photographs, friendships, Muci.

And now, Peanut.

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