2020: Isolation Is Not Good for Me

Actually I did okay in isolation – unlike the rest of the world, I’m mostly fine with having an excuse to stay home and read (yes it sucks that I haven’t seen a single member of my family for over a year, and even more so that this happened when my dad was finally planning on coming to visit me for the first time since my year abroad in 20014, but having to stay at home/not go to bars and clubs really isn’t the end of the world for me and I already worked from home anyway) – but I couldn’t resist using that as a post title. I mean when will I ever get the chance again? It’s a line from the song Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden if you don’t know. (Apologies if you feel I’m making light of what I know has been a terrible year for both the world in general and many people as individuals. I know not everyone shares my “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry” attitude.)

Anyway. Here’s something I wrote at the end of last year’s recap post:
…the last few weeks I’ve finally felt like I’m starting to emerge from the fog and I am hopeful that 2020 can be a better year, even if I ultimately don’t get my wish to start a family of my own. Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead! (And no renovations, thank goodness – I’m still dealing with dust in unexpected places from the last one!)“.

Ha
Haha.
Hahaha.
So… it looks like it was me that jinxed us all. Sorry about that guys!
But let’s look back at 2020 shall we? This will be long so apologies in advance.

We started the year here in Basel, watching the fireworks with friends. (Well, technically when the year began we were still waiting for the fireworks since they don’t start until 00:30 here). On New Year’s Day the four of us slept late and then had a nice brunch before my friend and her boyfriend headed home to Germany. Remember those days when socialising and crossing borders was allowed? We also met up with a friend of Jan’s later in the month, took a bus to Gempen and then walked up the hill and had coffee/hot chocolate in the restaurant at the top. According to my January recap, we went to the theatre on 4th January. We saw a “Basel musical”, which was strange but entertaining.

View from beside the restaurant in Gempen

After a failed hysteroscopy in December 2019, I had to go in for another attempt in January of this year – this time under general anaesthetic. (I actually had to look that up because I was questioning whether it actually happened in 2020 – it’s been a long year!) I was very pleased to be knocked out for it this time around. Everything went well. The scar tissue that was removed the first time (in August 2019) had grown back over slightly and the doctor also opened up a few cysts (but said there wasn’t really much blood in them). A week later I also had to go for a sonohysterogram (or saline ultrasound) to make sure everything looked good after the hysteroscopy and my uterus expanded as it should. It wasn’t that painful during the procedure – although it felt like it went on forever – but afterwards I had a lot of cramps for the rest of the day and was glad of the Buscopan and painkillers they gave me.

The Good Omens TV series finally came to the BBC and we recorded and then watched each episode during January and part of February. It was just as good as I had hoped – definitely worth the wait. Other than that the only thing I really did in January was read. A lot. 22 books to be precise.

February was our anniversary. 16 years together. We didn’t celebrate on the day, but we did take a trip to Baden the weekend after. It’s known for being a spa town but the entire area of town with the thermal pools, etc. was being renovated when we went. We did manage to dip our feet in a hot pool by the river though. The following week I went to the doctor with acid reflux and stomach pains, resulting in a diagnosis of gastritis caused by stress. I was prescribed proton pump inhibitors, which worked for a while.

We also went to St Gallen – the original plan had been to take a day trip, but after a late start we spontaneously booked a hotel room and stayed overnight. The following day after a walk round town and into the hills we took a train to Rorschach and walked along the side of the lake before heading back to Basel.

Then came March. Oh March! Jan’s 40th birthday was on the 1st. He wanted to go for a meal, so we booked a table at one of the few restaurants that was open on Sundays. (Ahahaha. Now none of them are open on any day at all!) At that point it had just been announced that the Basel carnival (which was due to start the next day) had been cancelled and the waiter we spoke to mainly seemed to be concerned about what was going to happen to all the extra food and beer they had bought. How naive we all were back then! The following Friday I went into the office in Germany and on the Wednesday after that, 11th March, we were supposed to travel to Poland. I had woken up with cold symptoms on the Monday and was feeling worse by the Wednesday so I called in sick to work and was debating whether to still travel right up until I was due to leave for the train to Zurich. I finally made the decision to cancel after hearing that Poland were conducting health checks at the borders and sending anyone with symptoms that could be Covid-related to hospital. The following day I went to the doctor, who agreed that I likely only had a cold (exacerbated by the same stomach problems as in February). I got a sick note for two days so I could get part of my holiday back and then still took the following week as holiday since I had to use those days by the end of March anyway.

Meanwhile, my family decided to still go to Poland, arrived just before the announcement was made that borders would be closing and tourists could either leave or quarantine. Ryanair sent far too few rescue flights, so they ended up taking a taxi to Berlin, spending one night there and flying home via Düsseldorf – during that time Germany closed its borders with Austria and Switzerland but luckily flights to the UK were still unaffected. Basel-Landschaft (where I live) became the first canton to go into a shutdown, in which all bars, restaurants, night clubs, etc. and shops with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies had to close. Supermarkets were only allowed to sell essential items and actually had to cordon off the aisles with toys or clothing. All but essential medical services were cancelled, meaning the fertility clinic was forced to close just as I had been planning to try another transfer after the two procedures in January. I also had a dentist appointment cancelled – only emergency treatment was allowed. Jan’s employer announced that anybody who could work from home should do so and we set up our spare room as an office for him, and by the time my holiday was over all my colleagues were also working from home. That first lockdown weekend was also the first time in 2020 that I missed my weekly walk, being unsure what was actually allowed (as it turned out walks most definitely have been allowed throughout this entire pandemic, but the early days were full of confusion). It’s strange to think that if everything hadn’t gone wrong our twins would have turned one and I would have finished my maternity leave right around the time everybody started to lock down. Obviously both of us working from home during a pandemic has been much, much easier without two toddlers to care for but I can honestly say I would rather have my boys than an “easy” life!

A friend her first baby in March a daughter – so obviously I had to stitch a card for her. See, some people got good things this year!

April saw hairdressers, garden centres, DIY stores, medical massage practices, physiotherapists and dentists allowed to open again, with customers having to wear masks and limited numbers of people allowed in. Jan and I went for many, many walks in every possible direction – we are very lucky to live where we do, within easy walking distance of both Basel city and beautiful nature.

Those weekly walks and one supermarket trip per week were the only times I left the house in April. Work slowed down quite a bit and I had to finish early a few times. I tried to stay online longer on the days that I actually had enough to do and only ended up having to use four hours of overtime, which I then easily made up in the following months so it all worked out. We started watching Richard Osman’s House of Games (repeats, but we hadn’t seen them the first time round) and I got into colouring again after my friend sent me a colouring book, with the result that I only read 11 books in April – definitely not a bad amount, but very few for me!

In May Switzerland reopened even more and I finally got to go to the dentist… for the appointment that should have been in March! It turned out I needed a filling so I had to go back two more times, first for a cleaning and then for said filling. I jumped on the baking bandwagin and baked Zopf – a kind of Swiss bread – and Jan and I made a speciality of Graubünden called “Capuns.”

I received my new Swiss residence permit – ages after applying for it – meaning I am officially allowed to stay until 2025 no matter what happens with Brexit. Hurrah! We continued going for walks, including driving out to where some friends were staying and joining them for a socially distanced walk, and also drove to a village called Altreu that’s famous for its stork colony. We saw baby storks there. Baby. Storks!

I took part in the second Believathon and read nothing but children’s books for two weeks, which was lots of fun.

The fertility clinic reopened after two months and we got to go back. I had a transfer on 18th May and everything went perfectly. The embryo even managed to implant. Unfortunately I spotted basically from the day of the positive test. I ended up going in for an extra ultrasound on 10th June where they found no obvious cause for the bleeding (but it seemed to be related to the cervix) but I did see a heartbeat. Unfortunately when I went back for my regular scan 5 days later there was no longer a heartbeat. Based on the size they thought the embryo had stopped growing 2 days earlier at what would have been 6 weeks, 4 days. I had to keep taking hormones and come back 2 days later to make absolutely certain that the pregnancy wasn’t viable. The ultrasound at that appointment showed there was no heartbeat again and the embryo had actually shrunk, but my body showed no signs of wanting to miscarry naturally – what’s known as a missed or silent miscarriage. I was given the option of waiting to see whether my body would catch up or taking medication to induce it, and I chose the latter. First I was given mifepristone, which I had to take immediately with the doctor watching. You may have heard of it… it’s commonly known as “the abortion pill” but it’s also given in combination with misoprostol (Cytotec) to induce miscarriage or labour in cases of fetal death – the combination of the two makes it more likely that all the tissue will be expelled so no surgery if needed. So if you are “pro-life” have ever said/thought that mifepristone should be banned please remember that it’s not just for abortion. Without it I would most likely have needed a curettage to remove leftover tissue which is exactly what my already dodgy uterus does not need if I’m ever going to successfully carry a pregnancy to anywhere near term! I left the clinic with Cytotec, to be taken the following afternoon, and a prescription for strong painkillers. The next day, I lost our baby on the day I would have been exactly 7 weeks pregnant.

That was the second week in 2020 that I didn’t go for a walk… I think I had a good excuse though!

I cross stitched cards for two friends’ babies – the second child for each of them born 15 days apart. One boy, one girl.

Switzerland reopened even more and the border with Germany also reopened, although I chose not to go back to the office. Jan went into the office once because he needed to pick something up, so he ended up working there for a few hours, having lunch with some colleagues and then working from home in the afternoon. He also went to a socially distanced choir practice. Covid-19 case numbers at the beginning of the month were around 18 per day and around 60 by the end of the month. Figures that are actually unbelievable at this stage! Oh Switzerland… where did you go wrong?

July started with me having to go for an eye test due to itchy eyes and blurry vision. I ended up being prescribed glasses, although things have normalised now and I don’t really seem to need them any more. I’ve been told to use them as “relief” glasses for when my eyes are tired or strained after working for long periods of time. I then had weird sinus pressure/dizziness/headaches. After several trips to my doctor, blood tests and a referral to a ear, nose, throat specialist, I was told there was no sign of an infection. Although I had lots of mucus it looked clear and my nose was dry but not inflamed. Basically it looked to him like a classic case of allergies. I was prescribed a nose spray and decongestant pills (basically really strong eucalyptus capsules). The decongestant pills made everything taste like eucalyptus but provided almost immediate relief, meaning I could actually sleep! I’ve since had an allergy test (blood test) which revealed I am allergic to absolutely none of the things they tested for! Not trees, not various fruits, not nuts, not grasses, not moulds and not dust mites. However, I think I may be allergic to a certain brand of liquid soap because every time I use it to wash my hands I end up sneezing! For what it’s worth I had no fever, no cough, no sore throat and neither of the doctors I saw thought it was Covid related. My symptoms were very similar to the cold I had in March when we cancelled our trip to Poland, which made me wonder whether what I had back then was the same thing. There’s no real way of knowing though.

On the weekend after my eye test, I decided to rest my eyes (so no reading) and we drove out to Creux-de-Van, a giant circular rock formation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. We had a lovely walk (staying at least 2 metres from other people at all times!). The scenery was really impressive – my photos do it absolutely no justice.

I went back to the fertility clinic in July for blood tests to rule out rheumatic conditions as a cause of my miscarriage/infertility – you’re supposed to have 3 miscarriages before those tests get approved but my doctor successfully argued that twins plus a single embryo meant I had miscarried three babies even if it wasn’t three pregnancies and that the five failed embryo transfers before the second miscarriage were also a cause for concern. One value was slightly high so I had to repeat the tests a few months later but the second time everything was normal, so that was not the explanation.

August was holiday month. Hurrah! Yes, we went on holiday during a pandemic. Yes I have been told I was irresponsible and selfish for even considering it, that it’s irrelevant that we spent most of the time in a car, kept our distance from other people and always wore masks indoors and that case numbers in Switzerland were around 150-200 per day at the time and most of those were in Geneva and Zurich – two places that we purposely avoided (to put things in perspective in November Switzerland was reporting around 10,000 cases per day and at the end of December the daily figure was 4,000-5,000). Never mind. We weighed up the risks and decided that as long as we were very careful we were okay with it. We had an amazing time touring Switzerland, and also celebrated my birthday towards the end of the holiday which was nice. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be turning 37 still childless but a tour week tour of Switzerland, delicious three course hotel meal, and watching the sunrise from a mountain on my birthday wouldn’t have been possible with young children so I can’t really complain too much.

The rest of August mostly just consisted of work (pretty quiet but I mostly had enough to do), cross stitch (birthday cards plus working on something for my brother’s 30th) and Richard Osman’s House of Games. Jan spent one whole (socially distanced) weekend at choir rehearsals/meetings so I used the time to start making Halloween cards for Post Pals. I also had an ultrasound to confirm that, after two periods, there was no tissue left in my uterus from the miscarriage and I would be allowed to continue treatment.

In September my godson turned 8, I continued making Halloween cards for Post Pals and I finished stitching my brother’s birthday present – unfortunately I can’t show you a photo because I forgot to take one. I had the repeat blood tests that I mentioned earlier (all normal) and started preparations for another transfer. I also went into the office in Germany for the first time since March to say goodbye to a colleague who was leaving. It was okay. The train home was full but not so much that I couldn’t get two seats to myself.

Switzerland decided to allow large events with up to 1000 people – including allowing crowds at football matches – from 1st October even though coronavirus cases had been steadily creeping up throughout September. So we started October with an average of around 300 new cases per day and ended it with around 7000 cases per day… a fact which surprised absolutely nobody except, apparently, the Swiss Government. Remember when I was irresponsible for going on holiday while we had less than 20 cases per day? Yeah…

Anyway, at the beginning of the month we got to do another embryo transfer. This time I spotted literally from the day of the transfer. Neither I nor the doctor expected it to have worked and we started discussing a new treatment that’s recently been improved. But somehow the pregnancy test was positive. Since my second beta hcg number had been pretty high I was given an appointment for an early ultrasound, at 5 weeks, 4 days. Again they could see no reason for the bleeding, no blood within the uterus. It was too early to see a heartbeat but they confirmed that there was a gestational sac and a yolk sac. The next day I started bleeding heavier after walking into town to buy some Christmas presents, but still went to Jan’s choir concert that night (hygiene measures in place, 8 rows distance between the choir and the audience and everyone in the audience had to wear masks) – one of the last concerts before the Swiss government realised their mistake and banned large events again. The following day, Sunday, the bleeding had died down in the morning but when I started passing clots at around lunch time I knew it was over. I emailed the clinic, who called me back and basically said to go and lie down, try not to worry and come for an ultrasound in the morning. The next day I called in sick to work, went to the fertility clinic and got confirmation of what I had suspected… the gestational sac was gone. At least this time I had passed everything naturally.

Jan’s friend started coming over to study a couple of times a week and I bought a table cloth to make the living room table look a bit nicer. At the end of the month I had an ultrasound to check that the miscarriage had completed. Thankfully it had and no surgery was necessary. And I ended the month with my annual autumn walk along the stream near where we live – with coronavirus cases rapidly increasing I was once again very grateful that we live where we do.

In November I made, wrote and posted Christmas cards for every single Post Pals family! That was a total of 44 cards. I also continued cross stitching cards for my own family and friends (I had made a start in October but didn’t get very far). I posted my cousin’s birthday present, plus a card that I had stitched in October, to New Zealand. Her birthday was on 12 December and it ended up arriving 3 days late even though I posted it earlier than usual this year!

I baked Vanillekipferl, attempted to start the pre-Christmas declutter (it made no difference – we still have too much stuff!) and bought myself a new dress. One of Jan’s choirs was supposed to have a concert but with events cancelled again they live-streamed it instead. It was actually quite nice to sit and watch from my living room with a cup of tea and my cross stitch.

At the beginning of December I had to go to the fertility clinic for an ultrasound on day 7 of my cycle to confirm that there was no tissue left in my uterus from the latest miscarriage. Everything looked good, which meant we could move on to the next step – an MRI to get a better look at my uterus and confirm my diagnosis. For a while we’ve been working on the assumption that I have adenomyosis. The MRI provided confirmation, so that’s definitely what caused my first 5 embryo transfers to fail and most likely what caused at least one of my miscarriages this year (with the first one it’s more likely to have been an issue with the embryo itself, but the second time there is a high chance that my uterus was unable to hold on to a perfectly good embryo). Recent studies have shown that an extended period of down-regulation before a frozen embryo transfer significantly increases pregnancy rates in women with adenomyosis, and my clinic has recently approved the procedure, so we’ll be trying that next time round. However, since we only have one embryo left, I’m going to do another full IVF stimulation round first. My doctor explained that affects of the down-regulation last a while, so if the final embryo transfer didn’t work it would be months before we could start a full cycle and get more embryos. This way we will have some waiting already, and if it does work out, we will have some frozen embryos made using my 37-nearly-38 year old eggs waiting for a potential sibling in the future. I will be at least 40 by the time we get to that stage and my egg quality will only get worse with each year that passes. So that’s what we’re going to do. If I’ve worked everything out correctly then in the absolute best scenario we can expect to have a baby in January 2022. And he or she will absolutely have been worth everything it took to get there!

Anyway… I’ve only just recapped December so I’ll make the rest of this quick. Work was busy, which I was actually grateful for. I ended the year with about 20 hours of overtime, which could be very useful with all the appointments involved in IVF (during stimulation there comes a point where I have an ultrasound every single day!). My mum and grandma got their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Many biscuits were baked… too many if I’m honest. I finished my Christmas cards and got them posted, sent my final box of Christmas gifts and then also took the packages for Jan’s family to the post office, where I stood in the longest queue I have ever seen there, and I once had to post gifts for Jan’s family 2 days before Christmas! I decluttered some more, cleaned and tidied everything ready for Christmas, and on the 23rd we finally bought our tree – we went to three places and at the third one bought the very last one they had. It was huge! Jan invited a friend round for Christmas Day and I made a traditional English Christmas dinner then avoided people entirely for the next 5 days (bar one supermarket trip) just in case I had picked up anything while socialising. We did go for walks but didn’t come into contact with anyone. New Year’s Eve involved stuffed peppers for tea, Christmas pudding, a Zoom call with some members of my family and drinking mulled wine on the balcony at midnight while watching the fireworks that other people were setting off (the few we could actually see from there). And then, finally, this incredibly strange and uncertain year was over.

So… what can I say about 2020? I know it was a terrible year for many people. For most people even. The world at large was an absolute shit show and I’m very aware that I haven’t really addressed that here. But honestly, while a lot of things came together this year, there has been a lot of crap going on out there for a while now that I have never addressed in my personal annual recap post so I’m not going to start now. This summary will all be personal to me.

At the end of 2019 I said I felt like I had spent most of the year in my own bubble, licking my wounds from what had come at the end of 2018 (losing our boys, my maternal grandmother dying a week later, my dad being diagnosed with cancer which is thankfully now officially gone). In 2020 I wanted to emerge from that bubble and really make the most of the year – see friends and family (my dad was actually going to visit us for the first time since the end of my year abroad in 2004!), visit places and do things that wouldn’t be an option if we actually succeeded in having a child. And then came the pandemic, forcing me to spend another year mostly at home, not seeing anyone. Which isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world – we are in the very lucky position of having various technologies at our fingertips (I even got to see my mum and brother’s new house via Skype!), I got to spend more time with Jan since he wasn’t commuting and didn’t have choir rehearsals and other things basically every weekend, and we had time to explore our local area on some really enjoyable long walks. And we got to tour Switzerland, which in all honestly we probably wouldn’t have done if we’d been able to actually leave the country for a holiday. I can definitely see the positives in this year. But when it comes to the closing of the fertility clinic, meaning we lost two entire months of treatment (I could have done another IVF round and started the new treatment by now, ready for another transfer this month and potentially been looking at becoming a mother by October of this year), and the miscarriages I just cannot look on the bright side. Yes, I would have been giving birth during a pandemic (my due date for the first miscarriage would have been 3 February and things will definitely not be back to normal by then) but so have plenty of other people and while I’m sure they would have wished for a different birth experience all I want is a healthy, living, baby, and if that meant having to give birth wearing a mask, without Jan by my side, I would happily have taken that over the alternative. Empty arms and no idea whether parenthood is in the cards for us at all. So despite the bright sides, despite the fact that I am in the very, very lucky position of having barely been affected by the pandemic (nobody I know died, we were both able to work from home throughout, we still have our health, our home and each other), or any of the many other terrible things that have happened in 2020, once again this has not been a good year for me. Looking forward… I don’t even know what to say about 2021. Obviously things are not going to get back to any kind of normal until at least the summer, and even then who knows what that “normal” will look like. I already knew that humanity is inherently selfish, but this year has shown me that it’s even worse that I thought. So will things be better this year? I don’t know. Brexit is coming, the pandemic isn’t over, and honestly the whole world is a mess. But I do believe we can all do our bit to make the world a tiny bit brighter. So while I have no idea what 2021 is going to throw at me I am determined to face it with as much positivity and gratitude as I can muster up. I don’t expect starting a new calendar to magically make the world a better place, but I am happy to be able to draw a line under 2020 and look to what’s to come. My hopes for this year? That this new treatment will be the key to me actually getting – and staying – pregnant. (And if it isn’t at least I will be satisfied that we’ve tried all the options that are available to us – bear in mind that surrogacy is illegal in Switzerland and to adopt we would have to have been married for a minimum of 5 years, meaning even if we got married tomorrow it would be a long time before we could even be considered for adoption.) That I will be able to see and hug my family and friends in person. That Brexit won’t be as bad as I’m fearing and that life won’t get any worse for my family and friends in the UK, and that I will actually be able to keep my job despite the fact that I neither live nor pay taxes in Germany. That everyone I know will stay healthy – physically and mentally – despite all the challenges I’m sure are still to come.

I also hope that 2021 brings good things to you, dear reader. If 2020 has been a bad year for you then I hope it’s a better one and if you’ve managed to make it through unscathed and even have a good year then I hope that continues.

If you’ve actually read this far then THANK YOU! I have no idea why or how you read all that waffle, but you are actually, genuinely amazing! Happy New Year friends. Despite everything, we’re still here so if nothing else I feel like we can celebrate that.

A decade in review

People have been recapping their decades on Instagram and Facebook, and some (like Hazel) in blog posts. So I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and share a photo from each year of the last decade along with a brief outline of the main events of that year.

wire bridge
Steall Wire Bridge. Glen Nevis

2010: We started the decade at a house party in Padua, Italy where Jan’s sister was living at the time. Jan turned 30. We watched Germany play Argentina in Munich (the stadium was freezing!). Jan and I moved in together. I wrote my Master’s dissertation. We travelled around Britain with a friend – see photo above. I got my  Master’s in translation and passed my probation period at work. We spent Christmas in England and then went to Edinburgh for Hogmanay.

Paris Louvre

2011: My grandma’s dog died – RIP Copper. We took a trip to Paris to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday. For the first time, we didn’t visit one of our families for Christmas, but spent it in our own home instead. I really wanted to see Austria again, so our New Year’s trip was to Salzburg.

De Valk windmill
De Valk windmill in Leiden – now a windmill museum

 

2012: Our family dog, Barney had to be put down. We visited friends who were living in Delft in the Netherlands – the photo above is from that trip. I randomly met K at a beer festival, and she became one of my best friends. My sister visited us in Karlsruhe with her then boyfriend and we took them to see the Formula 1 at Hockenheim. We had a holiday in Stockholm, which I loved. My godson was born and we got to meet him when he was just 10 days old. For New Year, we headed to Luxembourg to visit a friend.

Kilkenny
The River Nore and Kilkenny Castle

2013: Jan went to Turkey with work and ended up having his appendix removed there. We saw Eddie Izzard in Berlin. We saw a wheelchair rugby Champion’s League match in Karlsruhe. Road trip round Ireland with friends from our quiz team. I went to England for my mum’s 50th birthday and my godson’s christening – but Jan ended up going to hospital with stomach pains instead of getting on the plane! I turned 30, got drunk and cried because I was neither married nor a mother and felt like my relationship was going nowhere. We saw the Rocky Horror Show in its 40th anniversary year. I had my wisdom teeth removed. We returned to Feldkirch, Austria for the first time since I was living there (it hadn’t changed much). We headed to Madeira for the New Year, which I think was our best New Year’s trip yet (potentially tied with Edinburgh).

Wen Wu Temple
Wen Wi Temple, Sun-Moon Lake, Taiwan

 

2014: My colleague went on maternity leave (and my other colleague was still on parental leave) so I spent the entire year as the only English translator at work. It was a very busy year! Jan and I celebrated 10 years of being in a relationship. My Grandpa went into hospital in February and I was luckily able to get time off work at short notice to visit him. He turned 80 in April and passed away at the beginning of May. We saw Pearl Jam in Vienna (I gave Jan the tickets for his birthday). My brother visited us in Karlsruhe and we took trips to Strasbourg, Basel (little knowing we would be living there a year later!), the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Jan had to go to Taiwan for work so I joined him there for a week after the conference. Jan, K and I went to Paris for a Welcome to Night Vale live show. We visited what is still my favourite Christmas market at Burg Hohenzollern with friends. Jan was offered a job in Switzerland and we decided to start trying for a baby after the move. We decided on Zurich for the New Year so we could get a taster of our new country.

Samoa-Scotland
Rugby World Cup 2015 – Samoa vs Scotland

2015: We moved to Switzerland and I started telecommuting. I went to my cousin’s wedding, which was attended by the most family members I’d seen in once place for about 20 years! My friend from Luxembourg came to Basel to watch the Lion King musical with us.  We took a trip to England where we saw three Rugby World Cup matches. In October, once Jan was sure he would be staying at his new company, we started trying for a baby. For the first time ever, we didn’t go away for New Year, but instead invited friends to come and spend it with us in Basel.

Hobbiton

 

 

2016: My sister turned 30. We attended our first Fasnacht in Basel. Three old friends from university days came to visit. We spent two weeks in New Zealand! My mam and brother came to visit. The EU referendum happened (ugh). We attended my friend’s wedding in Luxembourg. Jan’s dad came to visit. In November, Jan’s mum turned 60. We were referred to a fertility specialist after 13 months of unsuccessful trying to get pregnant. My mam and brother visited for the second time in one year, this time with two of my mam’s friends. My sister and her fiancé (now husband) visited for a weekend to see the Christmas markets. We spent Christmas in England with my family and New Year in Glasgow with K.

Chienbäse4
Fire parade in Liestal

2017: Attended the Liestal fire parade for the first time. Spent Easter in Berlin with K. Took a trip to Champagne, where we drank Champagne (an item from my 35 before 35 list). Took a trip round England (and a tiny bit of Scotland) and got to meet Kezzie. I tried eating insects. My sister got married and I was a bridesmaid. For New Year, we went to Geneva with a friend.

Geneva light festival
Lights in Geneva

2018: Decided to switch fertility doctors. I got pregnant with twins via IUI. After months of being unsettled at work and being unsure what to do, Jan was offered a new job and decided to take it. My mam, brother and a friend of my mam’s visited. Just as we thought things were finally going well, I lost the babies. A week later, my maternal Grandma died. My other grandma had to have a pacemaker fitted and then my dad diagnosed with cancer. We buried the boys in November, then Jan started his new job in Zurich and immediately had to go to California – so my mam and sister came to keep my company for a few days (although I was back at work by then). We spent a quiet Christmas and New Year in Basel.

Gibraltar5
Monkey Mountain, Gibraltar

2019: Found out our December IUI had failed and tried another one, which also failed. Celebrated 15 years together. Started IVF in the middle of a renovation (in retrospect, maybe not my best idea?). Went on holiday to Spain and Portugal. I celebrated a decade in the same job. Had four failed embryo transfers and one successful and one failed hysteroscopy. Spent Christmas in England with my family, then ended the decade in Basel with board games, cheese and friends – a much quieter night than the house party the decade had started with!

2020 fireworks

It has certainly been an eventful decade! We travelled a fair amount – not as much as some, but given the state of the environment, I think it was enough, and we saw some amazing places. There were plenty of good times, but also some very, very bad times. I have grown up a lot, and I feel like we’ve also grown as a couple, particularly since we moved to Switzerland in the middle of the decade. Before that we almost broke up on more than one occasion, but now I feel like we’re stronger than we’ve ever been. We’ve made it through the toughest of times and come out the other side, still together and still in love. No matter what happens next, I know I’ve survived everything life has thrown at me so far and there’s something to be said for that. I’m hoping this new decade will bring more growth, more adventures, and lots of happy memories.

October 2019 recap

Hello friends. October is over and we are already just short of a week into November, leaving us with less than two months left of the year… and of the decade. Eeek! Is anyone else so not ready? I feel like I need to do something amazing before the end of the year to make up for wasting the entire rest of the 2010s, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. Today I’m here to link up with Kristen for What’s New With You. (Go check out her blog – she’s awesome!).

whats new with you

Remembering

That’s a weird heading for this section but it’s the best I can think of so we’ll go with it. If you saw my September recap, you will know that 3rd October was exactly one year since we lost our boys. I was off work that day because my employer is actually in Germany and it’s their national holiday. Most of the day was spent with my great aunt and great uncle, who were visiting their son just across the border in Germany. After showing them all around Basel (we walked a lot) and dropping them off back at the train station, I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. Then on the Saturday Jan and I went up there together. It was the first time Jan had been since their the boys’ had been added to the site… I wanted to say “plaque” but it’s not a plaque, it’s like a concrete strip with the names carved into it and a little star. I would show you but we don’t want their names to be broadcast publicly (Jan doesn’t even want them on Facebook, where only my friends list would be able to see them). After the cemetery we walked into town and went for a hot chocolate, which seemed appropriate considering that’s exactly what we did the day we buried their ashes (which was actually a year ago today). I would have liked to be pregnant again before the anniversary, but alas that was not to be. Maybe we’ll get there before next October. That would be nice. I’m not getting any younger here!

Travel/days out

Jan was busy on almost every weekend in October, but he had a free Saturday in the middle of the month so we decided to go out for the afternoon. After a quick search of the Internet, I came up with the Verenaschlucht (Verena Gorge) in canton Solothurn. Jan got a car and we drove there and parked near the start. We walked through the gorge to the Verena Hermitage and then followed the megalith path to get back to the car. It wasn’t a long walk – maybe an hour in total – but given we hadn’t left the house until 2 p.m. it couldn’t really have been much longer.

 

Reading

October wasn’t my best reading month. I took part in Spookathon but only ended up reading 3 and a half out of my five choices. The three I did read can be matched to all the prompts though so I technically completed it, and I finished reading book 4 the following week when I had to go into the office. But for most of the month I was reading It by Stephen King (which I’m nowhere near finished) or not reading at all because I was distracted by crafting.

Watching

Our Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch continues. We watch an episode most nights after Jan finishes work. I can actually cross stitch while watching, which is useful because I now need to get serious about my Christmas card making.

Craft stuff

I finished making Halloween cards for Post Pals – 14 were completed in September so in October I made 26. I then got started on Christmas – I’ve done the stitching for six so far and I’ve also sorted a few handmade, non-cross-stitched cards that will be sent out to Post Pals families come December. The cross stitched ones are mainly for my family and friends. Post Pals are also holding a craft auction in December to raise money to send the families of sick children (and some who have sadly lost their children) on a glamping adventure at Chessington – you can read all about it here. So I’ve been making Christmas ornaments for that and they will also be getting some cross-stitched cards – I’ve stitched two birthday themed designs for them already. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Quite possibly! At least having some time off work gave me the chance to get a few things done. Here’s an autumn card I stitched at the beginning of October that I really like.

autumn card

Concerts

Jan had performances with two of his choirs in October, and I obviously attended both. The first one was okay but not really my type of thing. The second one was at the Tinguely Museum – coolest venue ever – and I really enjoyed it. They were performing in front of one of the exhibits – here’s a photo I took before the concert started.

Tinguely

After both concerts I got to go out to eat with the members of the choir, which is always nice.

Purchases

I realised I didn’t have any waterproof shoes (other than winter boots and hiking shoes), so, with autumn being the season for rain, rain, and more rain I obviously had to buy some. Luckily I managed to think of it before the current downpour days and I am very pleased with them. Please excuse the teddy bear socks on the photos below 😉

 

I also collected tokens from Coop to buy a Kitchen Aid blender… or technically to make Jan buy it 😉 We got it for pretty much half price, which I think is a good deal. It’s not like I spent more than usual to get the tokens – it was all weekly food shopping that would have been done anyway. We have used it several times to make smoothies so I feel like it’s already justified itself.

Finally, I bought this liquid lipstick thingy (it’s in a lip gloss style tube but looks more like lipstick once it’s on). It’s very autumn and I absolutely love it! It’s actually a bit more coppery than it looks on the photo below but hopefully you get the idea.

me

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Work was pretty busy again in October, for me at least. Both my colleagues had time off at the beginning of the month – part of which overlapped so I was the only English translator for about a week. I had the final week of the month off – or technically final 4 days since the Friday was 1st November – and I feel like it was well earned. The week before that I literally had 20 translations that had to be completed. Not an exaggeration. Four of them I had actually translated previously so I only had to check my proofreader’s revisions and get the final files ready, but that left 16 that I both translated and entered corrections for in that week. Needless to say, I was relieved when I finally set my out of office message and logged off on the Friday!

I had plans to do many things during my time off, but that entire week was a washout. I don’t mind rain, but this was the pouring down without a break and if you venture out for even a few minutes you will be soaked kind. On the 30th, I went for a walk along the stream so I could take my annual autumn photos. I was out for around 25 minutes or half an hour and had to change my clothes when I got home! The next day was at least slightly more friendly… as in there was enough of a break between rain showers for me to take a bag of books to one of the free bookcases in town without them all turning to pulp before I got them there, so I at least managed part of my decluttering goal. There are still some books in the giant carrier bag because there were way too many for my to carry in one go!

I also had a doctor’s appointment during that week to discuss where we go now that our fourth embryo transfer has failed. It was decided that I will have another hysteroscopy. That will be in December and I am not looking forward to it even a little bit (last time was not fun!). But if there’s any chance it will help then I have to do it. That means we won’t be able to try again until January, so with that my chances of being a mother before my next birthday are out the window.

Oh, the autumn fair also started in Basel last week. I didn’t get a chance to go properly (pouring down, remember?) but while I was out getting rid of books I managed to grab a few photos.

 

That’s all I’ve got for you. I took two weeks off work, but since the second of those weeks (i.e. now) is in November you’ll have to wait for my next monthly recap to read about them. In the meantime, go check out the link up and welcome Kristen back to more regular blogging. She has been very much missed in the blogosphere!

September 2019 recap

Before I get into today’s post, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that today is exactly one year since we lost our boys. I never thought I would reach this date again and still be no closer to being a mother. (And please don’t give me any comments about how I still am my babies’ mama, they are always with me, etc. While true, it is not the same as having a living, breathing child to take care of and love). In honour of this day, I thought I would share the only “bump” photo in existence from my pregnancy – courtesy of my mother who insisted on taking it. I was planning to wait until I actually looked pregnant and not just bloated and frumpy, but I never got the chance.

Bev

This and a handful of ultrasound printouts are the only evidence I have that I was ever pregnant. Oh well, gotta keep swimming, to paraphrase Dory. I’m meeting up with my great aunt and uncle this morning (no work because it’s a holiday in Germany), but I hope I’ll be able to go to the cemetery later.

Anyway, on to my September recap, although honestly the entire month went by in a flash and I don’t feel like I did much at all. I’m linking up with the lovely Kristen, of course.

whats new with you

Travel/day trips

Jan was away on the first full weekend of the month, so on the Saturday I went for a bit of an explore. There’s a place close to Basel called Münchenstein and I had read there’s a ruined castle there, right in the centre of the village, so I went in search of it. I forgot to take my camera so I can’t show you a photo (although I put some phone shots on Instagram, which you my have seen if we’re connected on there), but I found it. The path/stairs outside and the house next to it are private property but there’s a sign saying you can walk there. Nonetheless, a woman standing outside one of the buildings at the bottom of the stairs spotted me reading the sign and glared at me like I was desecrating the place. Rude! The following weekend, Jan was away again, but the one after that was the only one in the entire month where he wasn’t either away with a choir or spending both Saturday and Sunday at rehearsals. We decided to go out for the afternoon on the Saturday, but needed somewhere close since he had to do something with a choir in the evening (literally stand outside the theatre and hum for 9 minutes, then leave. Weird project). We decided on Brugg, which the Internet told me is a “picturesque town”. Spoiler alert: it’s not! I mean, it’s not horrible… there are a couple of nice buildings and the river is pretty, but when I read “picturesque” I kind of expect something more. Windisch, which is either the neighbouring town or a district of Brugg (I never quite figured it out), has the remains of a Roman amphitheatre – called Vindonissa – so that was kind of cool. We had a nice afternoon, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out of your way to visit Brugg.

Comedy stuff

We went to see John Cleese at the beginning of the month. I think people who didn’t know much of his stuff would have got more out of it since the show mainly consisted of him showing clips from various things on a large screen and explaining how they came up with it/the background to certain things or just showing his favourite clips. It was a bit like a documentary about projects John Cleese had been involved in, but live. Not that it wasn’t good, but I’m not sure it was worth what we paid for the tickets. Oh well.

Cross stitch and card making

I was mostly making Halloween cards in September – I’m now up to 14 completed. Plus a few birthday cards for Post Pals. I meant to start on my Christmas card cross stitching and technically I did, but I only completed one design so I really, really need to get a move on in October!

Reading

For the second month in a row, I read 13 books. I had days where I didn’t pick up a book at all, which is unusual for me. I was tired most of the time and I also got stuck on one book that I enjoyed when I was reading it but never seemed to feel like picking up. Still, 13 is a decent amount so I’m happy.

Watching

I got the box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for my birthday, so Jan and I started watching that in September. I am loving my trip back down memory lane so far. I’m hoping Jan will have some time to continue watching it with me this month because October feels like the perfect time for demons and vampires and all things undead.

Celebrations

My “baby” brother turned 13 (I officially feel old!) and my godson turned seven. Not that I actually celebrated either birthday since they are in England and I’m not, but they happened. Here’s the birthday card I stitched for my brother (I’ve blurred out the name):

teenager card

Also, I started my current job on 1 September 2009, so it was my 10-year anniversary. Again, I did not actually celebrate but I got a letter from the bosses and will get a one-off bonus payment with my October wages. Perfect timing for Christmas shopping!

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

I don’t really have much to add in this section. I’ve been trying to declutter… using the Swiss method – basically take an empty cardboard box, write the word “Gratis” (=free) on it, fill with things you don’t want and place outside for the neighbours to help themselves. I managed to get rid of a few things that way. I also took about 25 books to free public bookcases in September… I still have a few more in the carrier bag I mentioned in my last post, but I will hopefully be taking those away this weekend. I made apple and rhubarb crumble the other week to use up some apples that we’d had for too long (the rhubarb was frozen) and I decided it should definitely count towards my 5-a-day since I didn’t put any sugar at all in the filling. The topping contained wholegrain porridge oats and pecan nuts. I am a crumble-making genius.

That’s all I’ve got for ya. Like I said, this month went by way too fast.
Let me know what you’ve been up to lately, and of course check out the link up to find out what’s new with the rest of the blogosphere.

A gathering of thoughts (and stuff)

Hello my lovelies. It’s time for another one of my “thoughts” posts, i.e. a list of random things that I want to say but that don’t necessarily merit a whole blog post of their own. The tag line of my blog is “just a place for me to gather my thoughts” so the occasional post like this seems fitting. Anyway…

  • The other day I bought myself a take-away hot drink in my lunch break. I felt bad about it but I was freezing and needed something warm (there is a coffee machine at the co-working space but 1) it’s a Nespresso machine and honestly those capsules are no better from the environment than disposal cups and 2) I wasn’t buying coffee). I was relieved/pleased when my drink duly arrived in a cup that claimed to be compostable. Yay! A couple of days later I went by the same place and saw a sign I’d missed the first time saying due to issues with littering they’re doing a test with compostable cups and customers can feel free to opt out and request an ordinary take-away cup. They seemed to have actually run out of the compostable ones that time so I didn’t buy anything. It’s good to know these things do exist though. Now if only all take-away places would start using them…
  • With all the construction going on, Jan and I have been eating out a lot. Two days ago we were walking home after dinner when we suddenly heard a miaowing in a place where no miaowing should be. At first we thought it was coming from a building that seems to be abandoned/under construction but then we realised it was actually below us and saw a kitty in a ventilation shaft/drain thing (not sure of its exact purpose) outside the building. Since it didn’t seem to want/be able to go back out the way it had come in, we called the fire brigade. Jan also took a photo in case it did manage to escape before the fire brigade got there.

    cat
    Kitty underground

    When the fire people pulled the gird up, it ran into another bit next to it then after they pulled that one up it went further down into the shaft. It ended up with two people from the fire brigade going down after it, following it all the way through a tunnel and ending up inside the building. They then looked all over the place but didn’t figure out where the cat had gone so they just made sure the doors leading to where the entrance to the shaft is were properly closed and left it. Apparently a large window was open round the back, which is probably where it got in. Oh well, at least we tried to help! The cat didn’t have a collar but seemed to be cared for/not a stray so as we were leaving I said to Jan “It will probably go home now and the owners will be really confused about how it got so dusty”.

  • On the subject of construction, I think the worst thing about this renovation thing is that I’ve only managed to read one book so far this month (hoping to finish a second one tonight though). I usually read in bed at night but having no electricity in the bedroom has been making that kind of difficult, plus with one thing and another we mostly haven’t been getting home until late so I’ve basically been going straight to bed. Jan has choir practice tonight though so I’m having a sandwich for tea (shop bought so no dishes) and attempting to finish my book while I eat.
  • Today I found out one of my colleagues is pregnant. I read it in the minutes of a team meeting and I have to admit I’m glad I wasn’t in the office for that particular meeting. Even just reading it was like a stab in the heart. This way I have time to process and will congratulate her tomorrow instead of having to stuff down my feelings and immediately congratulate her at the meeting. I hate that infertility and the loss of our boys has made me so incapable of just being happy for another human being who has got some good news.

Okay, that’s everything that’s on my mind today. I’m off to buy my sandwich, finish my book then hopefully get an early night. Have a wonderful evening (or day or weekend, depending on when you read this).

 

March 2019 highs and lows

Good morning. Before getting into the link-up, can I just be really British for a second and talk about the weather? On Tuesday we had bright sunshine and highs of 22°C. Yesterday the high was down to 9°C and it was raining. And right now, at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, it is snowing. It’s not really settling (except on car roofs) – probably because of all the rain – but after we barely had snow all winter now it appears?! The Germans have a saying “Der April macht was er will” (April does what it wants – referring to the weather) and this year they’re certainly not wrong!

Anyway…  I’m trying a new format for What’s New With You? today. I don’t want to go back to “currently…” style posts (what I call “recent doings”) but I also felt like my structure-free ramblings aren’t all that interesting, so here’s something else. I’m not sure yet whether I’m going to stick with it. We’ll see how this one goes. Obviously I am linking up with Kristen, as always.

whats new with you

The highlights

  • The month started with Jan’s birthday, on 1st March. He probably wouldn’t count that as a highlight since if he had his way it would be just a normal day and he could just ignore his birthday. He doesn’t get his way though, so there were gifts and I cooked something nicer than usual… chicken breasts stuffed with goat’s cheese and wrapped in bacon. A vegan’s worst nightmare! Afterwards, there was cake. Bought, not baked – I had no time for baking.
  • Fasnacht (the Bael carnival) was at the beginning of May. We didn’t bother with the parades this year, but we did go to see the lanterns on display outside the cathedral. There was a surpirsing lack of Brexit – I guess we’re too ridiculous to even make fun of any more! Lots had environmental damage topics – some with pictures of the Rhine full of plastic.
  • We saw How to Train Your Dragon 3 at the cinema. You’re probably wondering why I’m including that as a highlight… it’s only the second time we’ve been to the cinema since moving to Switzerland, so it felt like something special. I cried at the film, because I’m a big softy.
  • In the middle of the month, we went to Zurich to see Sarah Millican – a British comedian. As expected, she was absolutely hilarious. Her humour is more along the lines of sex and farts than clever observances, but that’s fine. Still funny. In April we have Eddie Izzard to look forward to.
  • Jan and I went to Meiringen with the intention of visiting the Aare Gorge, but it turns out the gorge was still closed for winter (the Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes fame are also near there, but I already knew the train wasn’t going). Instead we quickly made a plan B and took the cable car up the Hasliberg. That day was also photo an hour, so you can read about it here.
  • Jan’s dad came to stay and we took him to the pub quiz. We did horribly and came second last (better than last, right?). The next day (Monday) was overcast so we thought about going to a museum but it turns out all of them are closed on Mondays! So we walked around the St Albans area of Basel, had lunch then climbed the tower of the town hall. After that we took a tram to the German border, walked across to Germany and then crossed the Three Countries Bridge (which I posted about here) and walked back to Basel via France. The footpath along the river is currently closed at the Basel end so we had to walk along the road, through all the industry. We reached the tram stop just as the rain started. Timing!

The lows

  • At the beginning of the month we found out our third IUI had failed. There will be no 2019 baby for us. We didn’t tell anybody when we were trying, but I can now reveal that we did one round in December, with a negative blood test on 4th January  (yeah – happy New Year to us!) and another in February/March, with one cycle trying naturally in between. Next step is IVF,  which we have to pay for entirely ourselves. I’m mostly excited to be moving forward, but it’s a big step so I have mixed feelings on it. How far is too far when it comes to trying to make a baby through science? Maybe I should just admit that nature never intended for me to be a mother? Who knows.
  • My due date for the twins was on the 16th. I was so hoping to be pregnant again by that time, but alas my life doesn’t work like that. It ended up being okay. Jan stayed in bed until nearly 12 – despite the fact that scaffolding was being put up from 8am onwards with lots of banging and what sounded like drilling. It made me wonder how life would be if we actually had two young  babies right now. Would he sleep through their crying? Of course , chances are they’d have been born early and, depending on how premature,  they may not even have made it home from hospital yet. Anyway… once Jan eventually got up and showered, we went to the cemetery. The boys have a concrete strip now with their names carved on it, which looks really nice. After paying them a visit we walked into town and had coffee and a snack at a café, then in the evening I lit a candle. It was nice to mark the occasion even in a small way.
  • Two days after my due date would have been my grandma’s 90th birthday. It’s still weird thinking of her house empty, waiting to be sold. The family will definitely never be the same without her.

    grandma
    My grandma and little me
  • Then it was Mother’s Day in the UK on 31st March. My mum and her sibling’s first one without their mother and, of course, my first as a mother who isn’t a mother and may never actually be a mother. Seeing everyone’s posts about their children hurt, but I got through it. Now I just have to get through German/Swiss Mother’s Day 😉

Other stuff

  • Since I pointed out to Jan that we have Film 4 he seems to put it on all the time. In March we watched The Seeker, Hugo, Ghostbusters (the new one) and Mrs Doubtfire (which Jan claims he had never seen. Scandalous!). That probably doesn’t sound like much, but I never watch four films in one month – and with the cinema trip it was actually five.
  • We had our radiators and windows replaced last week. At one point on Friday, there were eight builders in our flat, all doing various things to windows or blinds! The windows part got a bit noisy but I managed to mostly work through it, only taking a short break when they were actually drilling in my office. I’m just glad it wasn’t happening today. No windows plus snow? No thanks! The real inconvenience is yet to come – when they replace both bathrooms and the kitchen all at the same time. Obviously I will not be working from home during that time!
  • I did some cross stitch – including a birthday card for my friend’s son and a Loch Ness Monster for a Post Pals child. I’ve also been making Easter cards to send to Post Pals children.
  • Saturday, 30th March was my deep clean day, so I’ve managed to stick to my goal every month so far. I will probably skip April since we will literally be living on a building site and there will be no bathrooms or oven to clean! I did it the day after the windows were replaced and I was actually quite happy to hoover and dust – the builders did clean up after themselves but I felt like everything was still dusty. I also cleaned the oven even though Jan said there was no point if it’s going to be gone in a couple of weeks. But at least this way I won’t smell burning every time I turn it on for those two weeks. Also, if I skip it once I’ll never get back to it.
  • Speaking of goals… I have been doing absolutely terribly at eating fruit and veg. In fact, there have been days that I only managed a measly one or two portions. I’ve also put on wait… only a kilogram, but added to the 3kg I somehow managed to put on in one week in England it’s bad.
  • I read a lot of books again. 17 to be precise. After a slow start to the month I didn’t think I would read very many but I surprised myself. Six of them were books I already owned (two were actually re-reads), so that’s good. If you want to know what I actually read come back on Tuesday for Show Us Your Books day.

That’s about it for March. I’m not sure what format my April post will take – you’ll just have to watch this space! In the meantime, check out the link up and also let me know what’s new with you.

Beautiful stars

I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but things kept getting in the way.

A few weeks after we lost the boys, I unexpectedly received post from the lovely Alison, aka Fat Dormouse. Inside the envelope was a card with a lovely message that made me cry and a beautiful zentangle.

stars zentangle

It’s now hanging in the corridor, just outside our bedroom, where I can look at it every day and remember our tiny stars. Once again thank you so much Alison for thinking of us.

The kindness of fellow bloggers never fails to amaze me. From wonderful gestures like this to a simple email just to check in and see how I’m doing. It is all appreciated. I may have never met most of my long-term readers, but I consider each and every one of you a friend ❤ (My real-life friends have been fantastic too but the kindness of what are, essentially, “Internet strangers” is honestly overwhelming.)

2018 – Didn’t We Almost Have It All?

Usually at the end of the year, I write a month-by-month summary of the things we got up to, places visited, etc. Clearly I’m not going to do that this year… mainly because I wouldn’t have a single good thing to say about October. But I do still want to do a recap of the year, just for closure. Or something. Apologies in advance if this gets long.

Even after all that happened, I can’t just write off 2018 as a terrible year. Yes, it ended horribly, and yes I will be glad when it’s over and we can start a new chapter, but before everything went wrong, I had a few short weeks of genuine happiness. Basically, the entire year has been a roller coaster.

To start with, in January we switched fertility doctors, which meant going through most of the same tests again (I did get to skip one though). I am so, so glad we made that decision though… I mean, the clinic sent us a sympathy card when we lost the boys! I can’t even imagine the first doctor doing that! Plus they have done a much better job of explaining everything throughout… although my final diagnosis still ended up being “unexplained infertility”. *Sigh* The testing went faster this time around, and by May we had made the decision to pursue intrauterine insemination (IUI). Since we were going to the UK at the end of the month, I was put on progesterone for slightly longer and we ultimately ended up starting hormonal treatment in June, with the actual insemination taking place towards the end of the month. On 7th July 2018, I found out it had worked… then two weeks later I had my first ultrasound where we discovered it was twins.

wedding outfit
Me at my friend’s wedding in England

While all that was going on, things were also happening with Jan’s job. Towards the end of last year (I don’t remember exactly when), a colleague of his who also happened to be a friend of ours announced he was quitting his job. He was just one in a long time of people who had left, which was rather worrying… we were both slightly concerned that the company was going to fold, sooner rather than later. So at that point Jan decided that, while he didn’t want to start actively looking for something new, he would at least make a linked in profile and put out some feelers to figure out what was even out there. This led to him being contacted by a company based in Zurich. I don’t even remember exactly when that was, but I do know while we were in the England he was supposed to have a phone interview with somebody at the company, which then ended up falling through. He had definitely been in contact with the person doing the recruiting for at least a month at that stage, but it was the end of July when he finally actually signed the contract. So that in itself was a bit of a journey. As it happens, the old company managed to replace all the people that had left and currently seems to be doing okay, but so far the new job is also going well (still early days though) and there are definitely a lot more perks!

SIA-ANna Atkins
I was around 10 weeks pregnant here, but most people had no idea.

I spent most of my first trimester waiting for the other shoe to drop. After everything we had been through, I thought there was no way everything could be working out so well… not just one but two babies, a new job for Jan. Something had to go wrong, right? But with every ultrasound that still showed two babies and every week that passed I started to feel more confident. Once I reached 13 weeks, I told the team at work (bosses already knew), gave my mum permission to tell the extended family, and finally announced the pregnancy on my blog. I still had a lingering fear of something going wrong, but my fears all centred on the third trimester… premature babies, a stay in intensive care, possible complications from that. The second trimester was where I finally stopped feeling nauseous and started to actually enjoy being pregnant. My mum, her friend and my brother came to stay and we had a really nice few days. I started working on some cross stitch for the babies’ room and I even bought them their first book. For those few weeks I actually allowed myself to get excited about what was to come. This was going to be it for us… we were finally going to be an actual family.  Then I started spotting.

October ended up being probably the worst month of my entire life. We lost the babies, my grandma died (exactly a week later), my other grandma had to have a pacemaker fitted (which went well, by the way, but at the time it just felt like more bad news). And on top of all the bad news I felt physically terrible for a few weeks thanks to the blood loss, residual hormones and for the first ten days also the antibiotics. A few good things did come of it… I had so much support and learned just how amazing the people in my life are, and Jan and I had some really intense talks and I honestly think the whole experience brought us closer. But all in all it’s not a month I want to remember… although I of course never want to forget my boys. While I would  obviously prefer it if we had never lost them – by this stage I would have been able to feel them moving inside me and thinking about that still makes me sad – I am still so glad I got to experience being pregnant with them. Even with the sad outcome I cannot and will not say I wish they had never existed.

candles

In November we said our final goodbye to the boys, laying their ashes to rest at a memorial for babies born too soon. Jan’s last day at the old job was on 31st October, then we had a few days together before he started the new job with a three-week trip to the US (and I have to say I am very glad I didn’t lose the boys while he was over there… I absolutely could not have coped with it all without him by my side). Another family member also got a not-good diagnosis while Jan was in the US, because apparently the universe didn’t hear me asking it to please just stop! Once Jan returned, he started properly at the new company, commuting to Zurich every day and staying relatively late for the first few nights while he got settled in and set everything up. That combined with 5(!) choir performances and the associated rehearsals meant I barely got to see him for about the first third of December. I also worked a lot in December… right up until almost the very last day (when I luckily didn’t have too much left to do as our system failed completely and I was only able to complete the few translations I had left because one co-worker could access our team email inbox and forward me the corrections from my proofreaders). Christmas was relatively quiet, just the two of us, which was what we wanted and Jan went back to work on the 27th. And now the year is almost over. Just a few more days and then it will be January and the dawn of what I hope will be a better year. Although maybe I shouldn’t say that given I ended last year’s recap post with the words “Bring it on 2018. I’m ready!”. I’m not sure I actually was ready for what 2018 brought…

November 2018…

Wow, I seem to have stopped posting for a couple of weeks there. But don’t worry, I aten’t ded (If you don’t get that reference I’m not sure we can be friends.) (Just kidding.) (Or am I?). I am aware that I’m starting to sound like a stuck record, but how is it December already? I’m so not prepared for this! Although I do kind of want this year to be over, so there is that. Still have to actually get through December though and I have no idea how I’m going to get everything done. We’re not even going away for Christmas so I don’t know how things are so stressful. Work is crazy busy again, I have at least three more packages to take to the post office (and really need to do it soon before I miss the last chance for them to reach their destinations before Christmas), I still have almost all my Christmas cards to make/send – which admittedly is self-inflicted but it still needs doing. Then I always try to give the whole flat a thorough clean before Christmas so that a) I don’t have to do anything on Christmas apart from cook and b) we can start the year with the place looking decent for once (which admittedly lasts all of two weeks, but oh well). Other people spring clean, I Christmas clean. But I am supposed to be talking about November right now, so let’s do that. Usually I do a “currently” type post for these monthly recaps, but that doesn’t really seem appropriate this time so I’m just kind of going to ramble on. Feel free to stop reading at any point 😉

Of course, I am linking up with Kristen.

whats new with you

Jan finished his old job on 31st October and wasn’t starting his new one until 12th November (which involved flying to the US on the 11th for three weeks of “orientation”), so before I lost the babies I had applied for a few days off so we could spend some time together and go and look at some baby furniture. Needless to say, the latter didn’t happen, but I decided to still take the time off anyway. On 1st November (which was a holiday for me anyway – All Saints’ Day), we had an appointment with the fertility specialist. We were basically told the same as at the hospital: they advise waiting two cycles  to physically recover then we can try again as soon as we feel emotionally prepared. He also wanted me to come in for an ultrasound on day 12 of my next cycle to check that the curettage hadn’t damaged my uterus in any way (pregnancy makes everything more sensitive anyway, and then the infection on top of that increased the risk of damage, apparently), so I did that and luckily everything was fine. At least one bit of good news! He also said it would be 6+ weeks before my period came back, but luckily it was closer to 5. The doctor’s advice was basically to go ahead and use our remaining two IUI cycles… while the pregnancy may have reset my hormones he still thought that if I managed to fall pregnant naturally it wouldn’t happen for at least six months… and I haven’t exactly got any younger in the five months since I conceived! Also, based on when I actually ended up ovulating in the cycle after my period came back it doesn’t look like anything’s changed. We’re officially “unexplained” but the one theory any doctor did manage to come up with is that my body doesn’t respond properly to the hormones, meaning my follicles grow too slow and by the time I ovulate my eggs are old and low quality and thus fail to fertilise. I ovulated on day 17, which admittedly is quite early for me (almost normal, in fact) but seems to suggest that nothing has changed. So it looks like I still need the help. Not looking forward to giving myself daily injections again, but that’s just how it has to be.

Candles

Jan managed to speak to a funeral director and then get an appointment with the person at the local council who deals with bereavement for the first Monday in November, so we decided to go away for the weekend before that, just for a change of scenery and to not have to think about everything that had happened. We went to Yverdon les Bains, where I was very disappointed to discover that the Museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary voyages was closed that weekend! I will definitely be going back just for that. We also managed to leave the suitcase behind when we changed trains (we got it back a few days later though), so the first thing we did in Yverdon les Bains was buy toothbrushes, toothpaste and underwear. There wasn’t loads to do there, but we managed to fill our time with food, walking and a visit to the town museum, which is located in the castle. If anyone is keeping track of my 40 before 40, one item is to visit a place in Switzerland starting with each letter of my first name. Yverdon obviously starts with Y… I’m beginning at the end, apparently.

Yverdon
Yverdon Castle

We met with the bereavement person on the Monday at 9 a.m.. He had already spoken to the funeral directors/crematorium so it was basically just filling in forms. The cremation was taking place on the Tuesday, then we had the choice for them to be laid to rest at the memorial for babies born too soon on either the Wednesday or Thursday. Since I had to be back at work on the Thursday, we chose Wednesday. So on Wednesday 7th November 2018, we laid our beautiful first born babies to rest. I’m not going to get into that here, so if you’re interested read this post.

It was still early, so we went and picked up a car, drove part-way up a mountain and then took the Geissflue circular route. When we started off, it was very cloudy and we were right in amongst them, but then it started to clear so at times it was cloudy on one side of us and blue skies on the other. So random, but very cool looking (photo below does not do it justice). As it gradually brightened up  I even ended up having to take my coat off because it was too warm… in November! The view was gorgeous… autumn colours galore. It was nice to get out in the fresh air. The whole walk/hike took us about 2 hours (including photo breaks!), which I was pretty pleased with considering a month earlier we went for a walk up the hill near where we live and I had to sit down twice because I felt weak. Nice to see the iron supplements worked! Once we arrived back at the car we drove to Aargau and had delicious Flammkuchen for lunch.

As previously mentioned, Jan flew to the US on 11th November for three weeks, but I didn’t spend those entire three weeks alone. Someone from one of his choirs came to stay for a weekend so that she wouldn’t have to travel back to Geneva after practice every day, I finally worked in the office in Germany again for the first time on 21st November because that evening was our Christmas meal – I had goose with bread dumplings and red cabbage – and then my mum and sister came over for a few days last week (was it really only last week? It feels like ages ago!). I was working most of the time, but I did manage to get the Wednesday off and we went to Freiburg in Brisgau for a few hours. We looked at the Christmas markets and my sister managed to purchase a decoration for her Christmas tree then we found a café where we ate burgers and drank beer before taking the train home so they could relax and pack ready for their flight home the next day. It was nice to see them, even though the reason for them coming was a sad one (so that I wouldn’t have to be alone for ages after everything that had happened in October and November… there was also more bad news for a family member that I won’t talk about on the blog because it’s not my place).

Freiburg im Breisgau

In between all that I worked a lot – broken record again, but it really has been so busy. The 12 days I was off sick when I lost the boys and the few days off at the beginning of November seem like a long time ago. I am looking forward to Christmas purely because I have 13 entire days without work. I’ve also made and posted cards to most of the Post Pals (yeah, I managed those ones… it’s just my friends and family ones that I’ve barely started on!) and I’ve been trying to eat extra healthily in preparation for starting the process of trying to conceive again. That kind of went out the window when my family were visiting with all the beer and wine I consumed, but I managed to eat fish at least twice most weeks, upped my water intake (I definitely don’t drink enough usually) and did my best to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. I’m trying to continue with that this month, but I’m not going to promise that the odd Christmas treat (or 10) won’t creep in…

So, that was November. What’s new with you? Are you as unprepared for Christmas as I am? Come link up and see what everyone else has been up to.

A Photo an Hour: 17 November 2018

Believe it or not, I was actually up before 8 a.m. on Saturday! One of Jan’s choirs was having rehearsals over the weekend so a girl from the choir who lives in Geneva was staying out our place… although Jan isn’t even here right now (he’s in the US doing a three-week orientation for his new job). Obviously I couldn’t leave her to breakfast alone, so I was up. I don’t have photographic evidence of that fact though because I had forgotten it was photo an hour day until I went on Twitter at quarter to ten. So my daily photos start with 10 a.m….

10 a.m. Shower time.

11 a.m. Opening my post. Surprise, surprise… I received a book. I also received something much better than a book (yes, such things exist) but that will be addressed in a separate post.

12 noon. Boots on, off out.

1 p.m. In town buying some stuff. It was colder than I expected.

2 p.m. On the bus home. Weird photo, but I couldn’t think what else to do. People kept looking at me!

3 p.m. Jan asked me to scan something for him and this seemed like a good time to do it.

4 p.m. Time for a nice, hot cup of tea.

5 p.m. We recently (finally!) got some desperately needed furniture for my “office” and I’ve been gradually filling it up. At this point I was sorting out some craft stuff.

6 p.m. The desk slowly getting there. No, I don’t want to discuss how bad it looked before I started sorting it. *Shame* The stack of papers on the left is Jan’s though… I refuse to take responsibility for that!

7 p.m. Back in town. The choir had finished its practice and I was meeting my guest for pizza.

I didn’t take any more photos after that… it would have seemed a little rude. Luckily I had an even number 😉 We ate, came home, had a long conversation about books triggered by me trying and failing to fit the ones I had picked up from the public bookcase in the afternoon on my to-read shelves. I lent her a book she’d been wanting to read. Then we went to bed.

A fairly typical Saturday really. Except for once I didn’t have loads of housework to do because I had spent my evenings cleaning in anticipation of having someone to stay.

How was your Saturday?

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On an entirely unrelated note, a couple of days after I came out of hospital, I noticed that some of the leaves on the previously green tree outside our building had started changing colour. I know autumn had technically started over a week earlier, but to me it felt somehow significant… I lost my babies right when the season started to change. Yesterday, it started snowing. I’m not sure I’m ready for another change of season yet. It’s all going so fast!
Tomorrow is our work Christmas meal (the only day between now and Christmas that nobody is off), so I’ll be travelling to Germany in the morning and working there for the day. The last time I was in the office was the day I told my colleagues I was pregnant. The next time I was supposed to be there was the day before I lost the babies. Going there tomorrow, no longer pregnant, is going to be surreal. It has to be done sometime though.