Friday, October 25, 2013

Trip to Frankfurt

So, if you follow me on Facebook/Twitter, you probably were aware that we had to go to Frankfurt to do some things for Sadie. We had to do the "report of birth abroad," as well as apply for her passport and Social Security Card. Planning the trip was kind of a nightmare, but luckily the planning was the worst part.

The first thing we had to do was make an appointment. The passport office will only see you by appointment, and they are open from I think 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The government shutdown was over by the time we went, but it wasn't affected by that anyway. Also their phone hours are from 2-4. Why can't they just have separate people doing each job and have both open all day? No one knows! Anyway, we took the next appointment available, which was October 22 (Sadie's 1 mo. birthday!) at 10:15 a.m. Frankfurt is about 3 hours by train, depending which train you take, so we planned to spend the night before in Frankfurt.

Spending the night, obviously, meant getting a hotel. Frankfurt is a pretty big city, and I knew hotels would be expensive. What I didn't know is that apparently they have a lot of trade fair type things there (at least this is what Tripadvisor or something tells me) so even on a Monday night, hotel rooms in the main city area were 250-300 Euros per night. That's like $400-$500. And, the consulate isn't really even very close to any of those hotels. So, I found one that was kind of on the outskirts, but about the same distance to the consulate as the central area. I was like, OK, we'll just take a cab. Until Hunter reminded me that babies need car seats.

So, I'd already booked a hotel that seemed inaccessible, or at least difficult-accessible, by bus. So, we had to buy a car seat. We don't own a car and pretty much never ride in cars, so I thought we wouldn't need one of these. Although on the plus side, Sadie really likes just hanging out in the seat, so at home if I need to get something done I can set her down there, as she really doesn't take well to being placed pretty much anywhere else. We also had to buy train tickets, but that wasn't so bad because a friend of mine had a discount code that made the tickets super cheap. We got to take the train that was about 2.5 hours instead of the one that's 3.5 hours. Of course, now that the travel was planned, we had to deal with the paperwork.

In addition to the application forms, there are a bunch of documents you have to bring in. Marriage certificate, our passports and birth certificates, Sadie's birth certificate, any documents that can establish the length of your residency in the U.S... I'm probably even forgetting a few things. Plus the passport photo for a baby. If you go to the Department of State's website, they have pretty stringent guidelines for passport photos, although it's basically up to the person accepting the application, and I think they are a little lax on babies. I think the one I took of Sadie (see last post) ended up really good though. Her head is a bit tilted, maybe, but I think that just makes it cuter! Anyway, Hunter and I being, well, us, we filled out the application forms at like midnight the night before we left. They were pretty trivial except for where it wants you to list everywhere you have lived, and what time periods. We haven't moved around a ton, but it was still a lot to try and remember. I also had a minor panic about the birth certificate. The website that lists what you need is very specific about which birth certificate you must bring, and I started fearing that we didn't have the right one. I think the website is a bit confusing on this point, because it refers to the short-form (ie, non-useful in this circumstance) birth certificate as "Geburtsurkunde," which is what it said on my (valid, official) document. However, the paper we had said the names of the parents, which I think is the really important thing. So we got all the documents together and the diaper bag packed. My plan was to go to one of those photo printers at the drugstore the next day to print out one of the photos we took.

Of course, that wasn't really trivial either. The first place I went I couldn't figure out the machines, so I decided to just go buy some photo paper and do it at home. Then that place had a machine so I decided to try and use it. However, as far as I could tell, the machine did not have an option to just choose a picture and a size and print it. If I chose ID photo, it would give the right size, but it would make me crop it to the German proportions, where the head takes up a lot more space than in the American ones. So I ended up just buying the photo paper.

After taking a few more pictures because I thought the ones I had might be too dark, I printed out a selection of the best ones. I had read that there actually is a passport photo booth at the consulate (which is true as of October 2013) but I didn't want to risk it being broken or something, which is why I took the pictures myself. Anyway, we made it to Frankfurt, had some tasty Ethiopian food and a few expensive cab rides later, Sadie had applied for her passport! I found the employees at the consulate to be really nice. One of them even had a Saints lanyard and a New Orleans accent to match! I'm sure there are circumstances that would make the whole process  more annoying, but it took us less than an hour to get everything done and there weren't any complications. Now we just have to hope her passport comes in time to make Christmas travel plans!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Church in Germany--Jetzt mit Abendmahl!

All of the pictures in this post are out-takes from the ones we took for her passport photo.

Last Sunday, Hunter and I went to church again and this time we brought Sadie. It was the same German church we attended last time, but they had changed buildings to one that was a little closer to our apartment, so it was easy to walk there. Hunter and I brought our little notebook in which we had written down the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer in German so we would know what to say. The order of service was basically the same as it was last time, except this time they had communion/Lord's Supper, which in German is called "Abendmahl."

Most of the way the service is conducted is very old-timey and very Lutheran. It follows the order of the Catholic mass very closely. However the way they did communion was kinda different. Like in a Catholic church (or the ones I've been to, anyway), half of the congregation walked up to the front. However, instead of just eating/drinking and walking back to your seat, everyone stood in a circle. The "eucharistic ministers" (there is probably a Protestant term for this but I don't know it) started by giving the plate of wafers to a person, then that person would pass it down the circle and so on. There was also something you were supposed to say when you passed it along. It was basically the German equivalent of either "the body of Christ" or "Christ's body, broken for you," something like that. Hunter was next to me so I didn't worry about it, but apparently the guy next to him gave him kind of a weird look when he didn't say anything.

They had wine, of course, and it was from a common chalice. They used white wine, which Hunter and I both thought was a bit unusual. They also didn't really have a way to wipe off the cup. I was only the second person, so it didn't matter and that kind of thing doesn't bother me anyway. I saw some people intincting (I'm basically sure that's not a verb, but they were dipping the wafers in the wine) and I don't know if this was because of germs or personal preference, but my feeling is that the germs are in the wine as well as the cup, so dipping doesn't really make a difference. So anyway, it was interesting to see how communion is done here.

As for the sermon, Hunter and I both understood bits and pieces. The main theme seemed to be darkness and light and I understood a few other isolated words, but not a ton. However, it kinda got me thinking about something one of the elders at our church in Alabama said. I don't remember which elder it was and I'm paraphrasing, so if you know feel free to comment or correct what I'm saying. Basically he was talking about the importance of the liturgy, and how even if the preacher went up and just spewed absolute untruth, we would still have the foundation of the liturgy, kind of like that was something he couldn't screw up, and we would still be worshipping during the other prayers, confessions, etc. So I feel like that's kind of what's going on here. Once we understand more German, it's possible we will find that this church does not line up with our beliefs. But until then, the parts we do understand are solid. We are going there in good faith to worship, and the liturgy that we know (know in the sense of connaitre or kennen--why doesn't English have a separate word for this?) is helping us to do that.

Sadie behaved great during the service! She mostly just slept in her little carrier strapped to me. She got a little restless toward the end, but she was mostly very quiet. I think there was another baby in there, in a stroller, who I didn't hear either. I'm glad babies are welcome in this church.

This is the one we actually chose for her passport

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sleeping Beauty

Here is where I give more Sadie updates and also ask for some help/suggestions. Not going to guarantee I take any of them, but could be nice to hear from parents who have gone through it before.

Basically, since she's gotten home, Sadie does not like to sleep in her crib, or pretty much anywhere that isn't in direct contact with Hunter or I. The way our crib works, it sits right up next to our bed and there is a canvas you can unzip so she's essentially right next to me (or Hunter, depending on who is sleeping next to her that night). But even this isn't really good enough for her. Pretty much the second you take her out and hold her, she falls immediately asleep but the instant you try to put her back in the crib she wakes up.

Wearing the onesie I made

When it's Hunter's turn to be up with her, he'll hold her, walk her around, whatever she needs to be calm and asleep. I have been trying to keep her in the crib and just stay awake as long as she does. I don't mind if she's awake as long as she isn't crying too much, since Hunter needs to get up in the morning. I'll keep my hand or something next to her so she knows I'm there.

Looking at the camera with eyes open!

Last night, she was really fussy, doing this screaming cry that I hadn't heard before. I think she had gas, but she also calmed down a lot when someone held her. So I decided to let her sleep in the bed next to me, where she (and I!) slept a lot better than we had previous nights. I really didn't want to do co-sleeping, because I don't want to end up with a 5 year old, or really even a 3 year old, thinking it's ok to sleep in our bed all the time. But then I'm thinking, this little baby doesn't know any better and we can't communicate that to her. How hard can it be to put our foot (feet) down once she becomes capable of understanding that she has her own bed?

Playing dress-up

So this is where I'm asking for help. Do we keep letting her sleep in the bed? Is this something we will come to regret? Obviously right now it's easier to have a baby who can actually sleep. However at what point do we start breaking the habit? At what point does it become nearly impossible to break? I love sleeping with this little baby next to me but I have to think about what's best for her and us in the future. So please, if anyone has ANY opinions/experience please share!

Right after her first bath

Friday, October 11, 2013

My "Feeding Story"

I put that in quotes because I kind of hate being the kind of mom on the Internet who uses phrases like "feeding story." It's up there with like, "season of life" and "fellowship" as a verb as far as annoying me goes. However that is literally what this is and I'm just not up for thinking of something super clever right now, so here goes. Of course you can always just skip the words and admire the pictures of Sadie.

Anyway, if you recall from a previous post, my plan had basically been to feed Sadie with formula as soon as we left the hospital. When we got home, this was still my plan. One of the several reasons for this was that I had heard so many horror stories about how difficult, painful, and stressful breastfeeding could be, and with the already difficult situation of having my first baby in another country, I didn't want to add to that.

Sadie trying to give Oma a kiss!

The first thing I did when we got home was to take a shower since I hadn't had one at the hospital while Hunter got ready to give Sadie a bottle of formula. When I got out, he asked if I could feed her one last time, since we didn't have a thermometer to measure the temperature of the formula (yeah I know you can just test it on your wrist or whatever but at that point we were being super anal about everything). So I breastfed her "one last time" while he went out to find a thermometer. We gave her a few more bottles after that, which always seemed to take forever to prepare, what with boiling the water and waiting for it to cool and everything (we did eventually streamline this process also).

She gets into the goofiest poses. And yes that is Candy Crush open on the phone.

Then, we decided that at three in the morning, it just wasn't practical to prepare a bottle. I am aware that some people make them ahead and store them in the fridge, but we have read that you really aren't supposed to do that. I know my parents did it with me and obviously I'm fine, but I just feel like there's no sense in risking it if you don't have to. So at that point, we decided that we would give her formula during the day, but for night feedings I would breastfeed her. The midwife told me if I did this, the milk would be a little less every day, but I was ok with that, thinking that once it ran out we could just use the more expensive, pre-mixed formula to feed her at night. Plus eventually she'd be sleeping through the night, ideally.

My camera can do effects!

Anyway, there eventually came a moment when she was very hungry, crying probably the most she had up to that point, and we just didn't want to go through the hassle of making a bottle. It was at that point that I decided to just go ahead and breastfeed. It really wasn't that difficult or painful, and it was a lot more convenient. We are still using bottles from time to time. When we left Sadie with my parents, they could easily just whip one up, Hunter fed her one so I could go grocery shopping, and I'm guessing they will be more convenient for travel. I was just very surprised because I had seen so many people on the Internet saying that people who use formula are "lazy" or "taking the easy way out" and that was not my experience at all. Not only does it take time to prepare the bottles, but you have to make sure they are clean all the time and everything. I know a lot of people have struggles with breastfeeding, and if I did I probably wouldn't stick with it very long, because I have enough other things to deal with right now. But since it's what's working best for our family, I am happy to do it, even though it wasn't part of my original plan.

I was able to catch her in a smile and ridiculous pose.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

German Hospitals

Ok now I'm going to talk a little bit about my experience in the German hospital. I've never been in the hospital in America, so I don't know what the differences are, aside from the length of the stay. And, as always, I'll be including some exclusive Sadie pics.

She's all bundled up.

So, a little while after Sadie was born they moved me up to the hospital room where I would be staying. Hunter went with Sadie to do... something... I guess they put clothes on her and stuff. I was pretty upset at first, because I wasn't in a private room, Hunter wasn't with me, and the nurse didn't speak any English. Plus, I had just been through kind of an ordeal. They brought me some food, which was schnitzel with noodles, I kid you not. I don't really like schnitzel, but I took a few bites of it and a few bites of the noodles. Eventually, Hunter came back with Sadie and I felt a little better. We slept for a bit because we had been up all night, then some new nurses came in who did speak English and were a little bit friendlier.


After dinner that night, the nurses announced that Hunter would have to go home. This was pretty upsetting to both of us, because I hadn't realized that he wouldn't be able to stay there with me the whole time. He was upset by it, too, but he stayed strong for me. Since there was another person in my room, the nurses came to get Sadie around midnight, I guess so she wouldn't prevent anyone from sleeping. I was able to sleep also--I was a bit afraid to fall asleep with Sadie there in case anything happened! Hunter came back the next morning pretty much as soon as they would let him in.

Being a little ballerina.

The food in the hospital was surprisingly not bad. For breakfast and dinner, there was a buffet. It had bread, sliced meat and cheese, yogurt, spreads, and probably some other things but Hunter brought it to me every time, so I don't know if there were other things I wouldn't have eaten. For lunch, I was given a menu for the week and had to check which thing I would like each day. It was ok, but I liked the breakfast and dinner a lot better. The lunch things were your typical German stuff. There is this one dish that is ubiquitous in Germany. It's basically a chicken or turkey breast with a curry sauce containing like, canned pineapple. It's not terrible, but kind of representative of German cooking: they eat just because they have to and don't put too much effort into making it good.

She just naturally settled into this pose.

Sadie was born on Sunday morning and I stayed in the hospital until Wednesday around midday. I know in the US, they would probably have sent me home the next day. Even though I didn't love being in the hospital, especially when Hunter couldn't be with me, I'm glad I had a few days there to recover. I don't think I physically could have walked home the day after Sadie was born. Plus, I had people who could help me take care of her if I needed to (although I kept her with me almost the whole time I was there). I got a few more roommates, but I think they were women who were about to give birth so I actually had the rest of the nights to myself, I guess while these other people were in the delivery room.

Despite being overwhelmed and emotional at first, I would say the hospital experience was not bad. Even the nurses who didn't speak a lot of English were nice, and Hunter or I could usually understand enough German to communicate. Aside from the aversion to painkillers, I would recommend having a baby in Germany, or at least at the hospital I went to.