20 weeks pregnant – halfway there!

So here I am at the halfway point of my pregnancy! 20 weeks in, 20 weeks to go. I have been very lucky to have what I consider a fairly boring, normal, nonexciting pregnancy so far (knock on wood!).

While there was some definite queasiness the first few weeks, I didn’t throw up at all. No serious aversions besides yoghurt and eggs, which seems to have gone away. No crazy cravings, except preferring salty over sugary the first trimester, which also seems to have gone away and chocolate is back in my diet almost daily. This mild sweets aversion early on probably helped keep my weight gain in the acceptable range.

I’ve also managed to stay active, which I know is definitely helping with the weight gain. No running, since I had stopped running regularly a few months before I got pregnant, but lots of walking, elliptical, weights, yoga, or at least a little 10 minute video most days. I’ve been to the pool a few times, since my doctor’s advice for any aches and pains is to go swimming. As the weather gets warmer, I’ll hopefully swim more.

I seem to get symptoms one at a time, rather than all at once. So one week it was back pain, then another it was heartburn, another dizziness, then breathlessness . . . but it’s never super bad, and never every day, so about 80% of the time I forget I’m pregnant and I tend to blame symptoms on other things. Like, I’m definitely very tired most days, but I was tired before, and it’s winter so less sun which affects me a lot. Or like, I had weird digestion issues before, and winter food is heavier, lots of cheese, so I just assume stomach stuff has nothing to do with the baby.

I don’t know where this dislike of “blaming” the baby for things is coming from, but I’m sure it’s cultural to a certain extent (L wrote about cultural differences recently). So maybe I am trying to find reasons I am causing this, rather than someone/something else. Or it could just be that I still don’t totally believe that I am pregnant (I mean really, I can find an excuse for nearly every single “symptom”!), and I am having trouble picturing a baby in there/in my arms.

Though I think it’s also just kind of how I am. I prepare for things really well and then deal with them, knowing that I did my best to plan for different outcomes so whatever happens will happen. I am reassured by my research that my “I just don’t believe it” feelings are normal, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to make myself feel a certain way about things. If it becomes more “real” in a few weeks, once the baby starts moving around, cool. If I still don’t believe it until there’s a bouncing bundle of joy that looks a little like me (but hopefully more like my adorable husband!) in my arms, then that’s just when it’ll happen for me.

So when people ask how I’m doing, I know that these confused feelings are not what they’re talking about! They want to know about the morning sickness and weight gain, and they almost seem disappointed when I say things are fine, like they’re expecting some horror story. The only really scary thing(s) so far are my boobs, which are out of control! I could pretend the tenderness in the first few weeks was because of too many pushups (despite not having done any) but I can’t ignore the size. Neither can my husband! But that’s not really something his mother’s friends, or my colleagues, or our banker, want to hear. I also think they don’t want to hear about my acne that hasn’t been this bad in 10 years (and it’s everywhere but my face, ew) so I instead I mention the lack of stretch marks on my belly so far (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD).

One thing everyone seems to enjoy are weekly bump pictures, and we’ve definitely been doing that. I seemed to “pop” around 16 weeks, so I’m sure there’ll be a more noticeable difference in the weeks to come than there was in the first few months. But still, looking back at week 5 and now at week 20, I can’t deny there’s definitely something in there, and not just too much tartiflette. (And holy cow, was I ever skinny four months ago! I’m thinking I should maybe hang onto some of this extra weight . . .)

Weekly Bump Photos

 

Hopefully I can write that things are still boring, normal, and nonexciting in another 20 weeks (though I’m sure the delivery will provide some definite excitement)!

Museums and food in Amsterdam

Since we saved on the train to get there, we were able to visit more museums (and historic houses) and eat more food than we would have otherwise. We did lots of walking around and enjoyed a mostly sunny, if a bit windy, weekend.

Amsterdam 1

We visited the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum (below), the Anne Frank House, and the Royal Palace. I visited the Rembrandt House on my own. They were all between 9 and 15 euros, so over 100 euros just on museums. I looked at the different tourist cards, and none of them seemed to include all of the things we wanted to see, so it didn’t make sense to get one.  Also, I’ve never minded paying for museums, since I know firsthand the work that goes into keeping them up and running.

Rijksmuseum

We ate at the Pantry, Pieminister, d’Vijff Vlieghen (below), Pancakes!, Three Sister’s Pub, and various French fry/hot dog stands. The Pantry was our favorite I think, the only really traditional Dutch food we ate all weekend. D’Vijff Vlieghen was in an amazing 17th century building (actually, 5 buildings together), and while the soup and dessert were good, the main dish was way overpriced and not particularly good.

DvjiffVlieghen

What surprised me about Amsterdam:

-The seagulls! That was one of the first things we saw when coming out of the train station, all the seagulls flying around.

-SO many French people. I don’t know if it was just tourists though; there was a church that mentioned mass in French. It was the first weekend of the winter holidays in Paris and Bordeaux, so maybe that was part of it. Or maybe I just notice the French tourists more than others, since I’m so used to hearing the language everywhere.

-How small the buildings were on the inside. This is maybe a “duh” kind of comment, and I’ve gotten used to small in Europe. But this is a whole different scale and style of architecture than I’ve seen in my travels so far. Which is part of the fun of visiting new places!

-American candy in stores. I would have stocked up, but since I can find a few things in Luxembourg now, the hoarding tendencies are less intense.

Amsterdam 3

 

What didn’t surprise me (=what we knew we’d like and why we decided to visit in the first place):

-The gorgeous architecture. I prefer “homogenous” cities, where everything looks like it’s from the same period. Old or modern, it’s not like I prefer only medieval cities or something. But I don’t like when too many modern things are near older buildings, like in Rome or London. Paris and Florence (and Amsterdam) are more my kinds of cities.

-The bikes everywhere. This was actually noticeable in the train as we passed from Belgium into Maastricht. All of a sudden there were way more bikes on the road. However, this actually made walking around a little dangerous, since while the cars would stop for pedestrians, we were never sure if the bikes would or not (usually not!).

-The small, walkable size of the center and easy public transport system. Our hotel was off Rembrandtplein, and a 20 minute walk at most from the center and the sights to see there. We took the tram to the museums and Anne Frank House, since those were a bit farther. I like doing both in a new place, to try all different ways to see the city.

Amsterdam2

 

We never seem to have many pictures of us together when we travel, but this time we managed to get a few, some of the last of just the two of us sans bébé! It was a really great weekend together, exploring a new city that I’ll count among one of my favorites (so far!).

AmsterdamCollage

 

The Luxembourg Amsterdam train

Actually, the title should be “The Luxembourg Amsterdam trains” since it took us three trains to make the trip. There are quicker ways to get there, but they are more expensive, and we wanted to have a bigger budget for food and fun. So we decided to take advantage of a special rate that got us both there and back for only 172€. The shorter Thalys route would have been 379€ and really it’s only a half hour to an hour shorter. Flying is around 400€ and while the flight itself is only an hour, there’s the time to get to the airport, go through security, etc.

So this special rate seemed like a good deal, even if it meant a 6 hour trip, and changing trains twice. You have to go through Liège and Maastricht to get the special rate, but you can take any of the local trains, just not the Thalys. There seem to be trains every hour along each part of the route, so no stress about one being late and missing the connection. Also, we decided to leave a bit earlier than planned on Monday, and we didn’t need to change our tickets or anything, we just got on the 9:37 instead of the 11:37.

The trip from Luxembourg to Liège was a little over 2 hours, then a half hour train from Liège to Maastricht, then a 2.5 hour ride to Amsterdam. They all had pretty standard commuter-type comfort, however the train from Liège to Maastricht was super disgusting. I wonder if maybe the two countries can’t decide who is in charge of cleaning the trains . . .

But that was the only downside to going by train. I think for the price, and the flexibility, it’s worth it. Since we were both a little sick at the beginning of the trip, a long train ride gave us time to sleep and read and just chill out. The fact that our phones were roaming meant we weren’t on Facebook the entire trip, so it was a nice way to unplug a bit and get into vacation mode. Plus there was the scenery to enjoy: the “wild north” of Luxembourg, and the shift in architecture between Belgium and the Netherlands.

There was passport control on the train once we got into the Netherlands, but there wasn’t on the way back. I take the train so often for shorter trips within France, in addition to my daily train commute into Luxembourg, and I’m not used to taking my passport with me. I set about five alarms on my phone and wrote it down in three different places so I wouldn’t forget. So I’m glad someone actually checked it!

My next post will be more about all the fun stuff we were able to do, thanks to saving money on the train!

Off to Amsterdam . . .

. . . for a long weekend away!

We’re both fighting winter colds, but museums and restaurants are nice and warm. And we’re not about to cancel one of our last pre-bébé trips on account of a few sniffles.

We’ve been to the Amsterdam airport a bunch of times (omg love that airport), so it’ll be exciting to finally see the city!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Calculating due date in France

The first question everyone asks when they find out you’re pregnant is “When is the due date?” or “How far along are you?” You would think these would be easy questions to answer. However, like so many things that seem to be different for no other reason than to drive foreigners crazy, dates relating to pregnancy are not talked about in the same way in France as in the states.

To start off, people/books/websites refer to both “semaines de grossesse” (SG) and “semaines d’ d’aménorrhée” (SA). SG is calculated starting with conception so it’s the age of the fetus, and the SA is calculated starting on the first day of your last period.

For months now, I have been wondering, why does this difference even exist?? If all the doctors and the administration talk about SA, why even have SG to begin with? It’s the “real” age of the baby, which is nice to know I guess . . . but still, very confusing. So when I read forums and books in French, I have to pay attention to if they’re talking about SG or SA, or worry about having done/not done something too late before realizing it’s okay, I still have two more weeks to do/undo it.

For various reasons, I actually have a pretty good idea of when we managed to make this happen, and I told my doctor this, but he stuck with the “conception is two weeks after first day of last period” rule (the one rule that does seem to be standard in different countries). So he calculated my due date as July 18th. When calculating using my date, with American tools, my due date July 14th.

Also, in France they calculate a due date based on 41 SA weeks, rather than 40 in the states. And I just read an article (from 2006 ) that the average in the states has gone down to 39. I work in Luxembourg and they use 40 weeks, so I’m actually going on maternity leave a week later than I would if I had a Luxembourgish doctor.

Despite doing my best to read about (and now write about) due dates and stuff, none of this really makes any sense to me. I still have no idea when this baby is “supposed” to get here, besides sometime in mid-July. Which is why I like to tell people July 14th, because 1) as an American, my body will obviously follow American rules; 2) that’s a super fun due date to have in France; and 3) it probably won’t be that day anyway, so why bother telling people what the doctor put on a paper.

There is a full moon on July 12th, and while the belief that more babies are born during the full moon hasn’t really been proven, the final of the World Cup is July 13th, and everybody knows that babies like to be born when there are other things to be done (I was born on Christmas, and my husband’s mom went into labor while the car was being washed. Yeah, I totally win that one.)

One thing I know for sure is that it will not happen any later than July 18th, because my doctor apparently does not put up with any of this “let’s wait a week or two past your due date” nonsense to induce. He said if I’m not in the hospital on the 18th, he will put me there. So sharing a birthday with Prince George is out, unless I want four days of labor. (I’ve never had a baby before, but I’m gonna bet that no, I will not want that).

As for the how far along I am question, I usually say something like “four and a half months” but this seems to confuse people here, and my MIL said “ok, so you’re in your fifth month” just like after celebrating your 25th birthday, you’re in your 26th year. Sigh. More confusion.

Even the months don’t seem to correspond to the same number of weeks on both sides of the Atlantic. Does month three end at 13 or 14 weeks? Month six at week 26 or 27? When the F does my third trimester start??

Anyway, by now, in both countries, everyone seems to agree that I am most definitely in my second trimester, whether at the end of my 4th month or beginning of my 5th is up for debate. I’m at 18 SA (and American weeks) whether +1 days or +4 depends on whether you want to listen to my doctor or to me, the person who was actually there when the baby was made. I personally only listen to him when he tells me I can still eat whatever I want as long as it’s in reasonable portions and that I should cook my meat all the way through.

I realize this was probably pretty boring for people who are not and/or do not want to be pregnant, in France or any country. So to thank you for reading this far, here’s a picture from the Carnival costume party we went to this weekend, featuring my little bump, who, let’s face it, doesn’t really care how old it is, as long as I am feeding it delicious French pastries.

pregnant egg costume

Almond Flour Carrot Cake Recipe

I’ll write a longer post soon about eating paleo in France (and while pregnant) but for now, I just wanted to share a recipe for carrot cake I’ve adapted from Fast Paleo based on what I did and didn’t have in my kitchen last night.

Almond flour carrot cake

Almond flour carrot cake

Whisk together 200g shredded carrots and 3 eggs until nice and frothy.

Mix in 30g of melted butter and 4TBS honey (I just used a big spoon to measure).

Add 150g almond flour (“amandes en poudre” or “poudre d’amande” in France), 1tbs each of salt and cinnamon (a small spoon works for this) and 1/2tbs nutmeg. Stir until well combined.

Pour into a greased cake pan (I did mine with coconut oil, but butter is fine) and bake at 160° C (325° F) for 50 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

Notes

This is probably way better with raisins and walnuts, but I had neither, and my husband doesn’t like carrot cake with raisins anyway.

The dates would definitely have made this sweeter, but I found the carrots and honey were sweet enough on their own. Also I didn’t have any dates. Pretty much all I had on hand were carrots and almond flour. Still, it makes a good breakfast cake this way; I personally don’t like starting my day with a crazy amount of sweetness.

Like a lot of paleo recipes, it’s a bit eggy, though not as much as things made with coconut flour. So keep it in the refrigerator if you don’t eat it all right away.

I am not very good at taking food pictures.

Super Bowl in France

Though we don’t get ESPN anymore, the Super Bowl is shown live in France on a regular channel, so my husband still got to have some fun on Super Bowl Sunday (though with the time difference, it’s more like Super Bowl very-early-Monday). He spent the afternoon making a few recipes from the NFL cookbooks my dad sent him for Christmas. Then we had a few friends over to eat and play Madden while waiting for the midnight kickoff. I say “we,” but I was in bed at 10:30 and have very little real interest in football, since my family was more into baseball. My husband definitely knows way more about the game than I do. The first game he ever saw six years ago (on TV) was between Seattle and San Francisco, and since Seattle won, it’s been his team ever since. So he was even more into watching the Super Bowl than previous years, and actually took Monday off work to recuperate.

While it wasn’t quite the same as a lazy Sunday afternoon hanging out with people and watching the game in primetime with all the commercials, it’s nice that he was able to watch it here and that our friends are interested as well. I’m sure in big cities there are bars that show it and large American expat communities that get together to have all sorts of Super Bowl fun. And if next year we happen to be in one of those cities, we’ll definitely try and experience it that way.

I like creating our own mix of French/American traditions surrounding these types of events. Despite time differences and language barriers, I’m happy my husband is able to experience a tiny bit of the American lifestyle. (I hesitate to say “American culture” when talking about football, would you say watching the World Cup be a part of “French culture”?) The plan is still for us to live in the states at some point, and given how really into certain American things he is, like football, sometimes I think he’ll have less culture shock than me!