Sunday Summary: two-week edition

For when you just can’t get it together to even post once a week. And also, it’s actually Monday morning as I’m writing this. Ah, well. Worse things happen at sea, as a friend of mine sometimes says. So, when I originally drafted this post in my head last Sunday, I had half a plan to call it something exceedingly sappy, like ‘a glimmer of light’ or ‘a ray of sunshine’. This was half literal, because it was finally sunny after what seemed like weeks of fog, and half not, because of some bright spots in life:

Bright spot 1: Because it cannot be overstated: the SUN! (See above for the first glimpse of sun and blue sky from my office window in what feels like forever.) It makes such a difference to me. Unfortunately, it is also not to most common sight ever in this region of Italy at this time of year. Doubly unfortunately, since my arrival in Italy as an innocent 23-year-old, I have learned that the regional “fog” with which I was beginning to make my peace in a hygge-inspired sort of way is actually probably mostly pollution and horrendous air quality. If you’re curious, google an air quality map of Europe. The big red swath across the top of northern Italy? That’s where I live. What is particularly galling about this is that it is pure happenstance: there as no specific reason for me to move to this region aside from having found a job here. Random coincidence could have led me to any other part of Italy blessed with lovely cleaner air, but alas it did not. I’m making light of this, but it does sincerely trouble me sometimes. Am I condemning my children to higher cancer and asthma risks by living here? I’ll leave that as a topic for another day and end instead on this fun fact: if you’re thinking that probably I did have some influence over where I found a job here by virtue of the fact that I’m the one who sent out the CVs, you’d be right. So why was I sending CVs out around the Emilia-Romagna area (tragically unaware that it possessed the dubious honor of having the worst air in all Europe)? It’s because when I was studying Italian (as a hobby, mind you), we had done a reading comprehension on the University of Bologna and how it was one of the oldest in Europe, and even the world (I’m saying ‘one of’ because I’m too lazy to go fact check that right now) and apparently the idea of being in physical proximity to the oldest university in Europe really did it for me. I was such a cool kid. Okay. So, anyway. The sun. It is good, and its reappearance made my heart happy. (And, I can only assume, my lungs.)

Second victory of the week: I found a gynecologist I like! Not having one yet was definitely weighing on me, and I felt very ignorant and floundering-around-y about finding one because in America it seems like you can meet a few, evaluate them, and pick the one you like, whereas here it seems like you have to just pick one based on the advice of random friends and family and then soldier on. I suppose you could change after the first meeting if you didn’t like them, but I was for sure made to feel like it wouldn’t be the norm. You also have to choose between national health system and private. This whole thing also feels like a topic for another day, but in the specific context of prenatal care, it sort of boils down to this: the national health system ob/gyns are affiliated with the local hospital where I’d probably give birth, so they’d already have your file and everything for said birth but also if you rocked up there in an emergency situation at any point during the pregnancy. On the other hand, as far as I can tell, you make each prenatal appointment and then whoever is there then sees you, so you don’t get followed by the same person. (I assume this also means that landing on someone you know when you actually give birth is a bit hit or miss. To be investigated at a later time, I guess.) In the private system, you can have the same doctor every time, the whole experience feels a bit snazzier (newer facilities) and you can get appointments more easily. And those appointments are more likely to be on time. But you have to pay, obviously. However, it is not such an exorbitant amount that makes this a decisive factor for me at this particular time in life, primarily because time is money (in general, but quite specifically and starkly in my current half-freelance working situation), and one thing you need in abundance for the national system is time. And patience. Anyway. I digress. The point is, I already had an appointment with a private gynecologist someone had recommended before Christmas (originally to investigate why a pregnancy was not happening, actually!), so I decided to go see her, and if I wasn’t feeling 100% about her, try out the national system. We went to see her, and we both felt 100% about her. Problem solved! Yay. So she’ll see me about once a month, and give me prescriptions for all the blood work and other major prenatal tests, and I’ll have those done through the national health system. I feel satisified with this hybrid approach, and having it in place is a weight off my shoulders.

Bright spot 3: my mother came to visit! We had a lovely, restful weekend together which included one major outing (one of my Christmas presents to her was to take her to see Carmen at the local theater, which is a downright gem of a theater). It was the first time either of us had been back in a theater since covid, and while my heart did tighten up in sadness a bit to see that the entire cast except the three principal singers was masked up (sadness because it really sort of stabbed home how much life has changed, not because I disapprove in any way of mask-wearing!), it was still a beautiful experience to be back in a theater. (Weird observation: I feel an extremely strong urge to explain the risk calculus that we did in order to make the decision about going to the theater… even though I am writing an anonymous blog that it’s quite possible no one will ever read! I am going to resist the urge, though. Isn’t it weird how much we feel we have to explain ourselves, though?) Anyway. That’s basically the only time we went out – the rest of the time we holed up in our house and just rested and relaxed together, which was very restorative (I’m still definitely still feeling first trimester flattened, and she is going through other things that are her business, so we both needed the rest.)

This pizza will basically need to symbolize my mother’s entire visit because apparently we didn’t really take other pictures?! Sigh. Was a good pizza, though.

Bright spot 4: We ordered two big ticket items from our furniture-we-still-need list, namely the wardrobes for our bedroom and the shelving system for the living room. I am dreaming of the day when these will arrive and we can fill them with all of the things that are currently living in boxes in the future baby’s room. Can you imagine a life in which your living space is not littered with boxes and your clothes are all in their right place? I only faintly remember such an experience after about six months of living in the new house this way, the previous year or so living in the boyfriend’s apartment in a sort of moving-next-year-not-going-to-bother-to-organize way, and the year before that living kind of between his apartment and mine, ferrying key possessions back and forth based on where we were sleeping. So, basically, I think 2018 was the last time that my possessions and I lived all in one place in an organized fashion. Additional factor: getting these furniture items is also associated in my brain with painting a few walls/rooms we intend to paint, and hanging stuff on the walls, and… just kind of finishing certain rooms of the house and moving past the just-moved-in feeling. I think that will be nice and satisfying, and ordering the stuff was definitely the first step.

Not the final version of the shelving unit, but close. (The blank space in the middle is because we have a projector instead of a TV, which is great for me because I don’t really like TV, so the fact that it disappears when it’s not in use and leaves a peaceful blank patch of wall in its place is a total win.)

Bright spot 5: We’ve started telling some friends about the pregnancy, and it has definitely made a difference both in terms of making it feel more real and in terms of heartwarming-ness. Watching people’s eyes tear up or a big smile spread across their face is truly lovely, and I find myself looking forward to telling other people. On a related note, we went to look at the big store of baby stuff and maternity wear yesterday afternoon, ostensibly to look at the maternity options to see if I liked any of them or would need to order online, but inevitably got sucked into looking at all the Baby Stuff. This included bumbling around the stroller sets (which… what on earth are the criteria you use to choose them? There are so many!) and fingering tiny little outfits (hilarious moment: the boyfriend grabbing some very cute 12-18 months PJs and declaring that ‘something like this could be good to take the Bean home from the hospital – it has a duck on it!’ I heartily approve of ducks on pretty much any clothing item, but it looks like we’re going to have do a quick primer on the size of actual freshly born babies. Poor boyfriend. Ha.)

Bright spot 6: I did two volunteer shifts with ye olde ambulance service where the boyfriend used to work and where we met. He changed jobs in mid-January, and while I am of course delighted for him to have a more stable schedule and new challenges in his work life, it was poignant to think that we probably wouldn’t do that many shifts together anymore. However, in going to these two shifts in the past two weeks by myself, I was reminded that actually, volunteering with the ambulance service was my chosen volunteering activity even before I met him, and that all my friendships with other volunteers and his ex-colleagues can actually stand independently of his beign there, just like they did before we ever got to know each other. I had a lovely two shifts with two very lovely ambulance crews… which reminded me how much I love this particular volunteering activity just about in time for me to have to stop doing it. It doesn’t seem wise or judicious to continue much further into this pregnancy (it involves frequent contact with covid-positive patients – albeit all geared up in PPE – and hoisting people in and out of beds and chairs and occasionally down flights of stairs) but I shall miss it greatly. (I can still volunteer to be the person on shift who stays in the headquarters and answers the phones and that will be better than nothing, but I would like to state for the record that I still hate speaking on the phone in Italian, and my favorite part of volunteering is being nice to the patients in hope of making their ambulance experience slightly less shitty, which… is not at all part of being the phone person. Sigh.) This makes me far sadder than any of the foods I can’t have for these nine months, also because while I can shovel those right back in as soon as I give birth (I guess?), I assume it will be some time before I am again in fighting form for lugging people down stairs. Not to mention that… every volunteer shift will involve finding childcare for the Bean, so it will either cost actual money to volunteer, or depend on the kindness of friends. Or, I suppose, lining up my shifts with the boyfriend’s downtime from work. No matter what, though, I fear my glory days of 1-2 shifts per week are at an end, so that’s definitely something to mourn.

And thus ends the current list of bright spots (er, not even on a particularly bright point), but I feel like this is definitely a vast improvement on how I was feeling two weeks ago. I would also like to note a fun coincidence: the sun had burned through the morning smog while I was writing that, and literally as I finished, it blew back in again so quickly that it literally looked like night was falling. Or the tornado was approaching in a movie about a tornado (hope not… have never heard of a tornado here, and don’t see the need to change that today!). Anyway. I feel like I had other updates, but my designated writing time has come to an end, and it’s time to crack on with the day’s other projects, which include a beast of a translation, a load of laundry, and a Bean-related doctor’s appointment to organize prenatal testing. Enjoy a good start to the week, world!

2 thoughts on “Sunday Summary: two-week edition

  1. Glad you found some bright spots – literal and otherwise – over the last few weeks.
    I’m so happy your mother could visit and that pizza looks picture-worthy. Yum.
    “Isn’t it weird how much we feel we have to explain ourselves, though?” – I feel like this happened plenty before COVID (explaining why we picked X, Y, or Z), and now after COVID it’s like we have to explain the whole alphabet. I constantly feel like I need to preface everything with either why I made a decision or what practical steps I took to make sure it was safe and it can feel…exhausting! I can so relate to this comment…

    1. It’s so true! Like you mentioned, I have definitely sometimes experienced the urge to explain my decision-making even before covid, but now it’s as if it had intensified one hundredfold. Sometimes I wonder… how much mental space will we regain control of if this era of our lives is ever over?!

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