Baby Announcement

Birth in the Time of COVID-19

Back in September when we found out I was pregnant, we never would have guessed that we would be bringing a baby into this world during a global pandemic. We announced the soon-to-be arrival of baby Grimm #2 in cute ways and our biggest concern was that he arrived healthy, 10 fingers and 10 toes.

Oktoberfest Baby Announcement
Oktoberfest baby announcement.
Gender Reveal for Baby Grimm #2
Gender reveal for baby Grimm #2.

Except for the fact that I was extremely tired and taking care of a toddler, life continued as normal. I was still meeting friends daily at the gym, walking everywhere to run errands, and we were still traveling the world as a family. I was able to find a wonderful OB/GYN within walking distance from our house. There were some differences in prenatal care but for the most part, everything was the same.

It was important for Jeff and me to have a babymoon, like we did when pregnant with Carson. One last trip where we were a party of 3. We had originally planned to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates but due to political turmoil (aka the US killing an Iranian general therefore creating instability in the region making Americans unwelcome) we decided to head to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It was a wonderful week on holiday with tons of sun and pool time!

Babymoon in Tenerife, Spain
Babymoon in Tenefire, Spain
Babymoon with Baby #2
Babymoon in Tenerife, Spain with Baby #2

Then COVID-19 hit and spread like wildfire. Flights were grounded, borders were closed, and social life looked a lot different.

March 24, 2020 (email to friends): First, yes, we are doing well. Germany has some pretty strict rules in place such as “no more than 2 people can be together at any given time unless you are a family”. But much like Illinois all non-essential stores are closed and residents are being asked to stay in their homes as much as possible. Borders from Germany to most neighboring countries have been closed but that was mostly because countries with stricter rules were coming into Germany to panic buy supplies. Speaking of supplies, I never thought I’d be so happy to find things like flour, pasta, and toilet paper in the stores! Granted our grocery stores are about the size of a small Walgreens but I’ll take what I can get…when I can get it 🙂 For the past 2 weeks, Jeff has been the one to run the errands. The culture here is that you go to the store every day or every other day because living spaces are much smaller then what we are used to in the US. For example, our freezer is the size of a dorm room fridge…seriously. 

The biggest challenge for us has been Jeff working from home. He is able to get his work done but Carson is so excited “dada” is home that she will call for him until he responds to her. Some of our friends from Australia were sent home from this project because Australia has closed its borders and no one knows when they will reopen again. When our friends landed, they had to sign a contract with the government saying that they would self-quarantine in one place for the full 2 weeks or face a $50,000 fine! Yikes!

Second, we have scheduled the C-Section of baby boy Grimm for Tuesday, April 7. My OB/GYN is calling Carson’s birth a traumatic birth so it has been fairly easy to schedule. It is preferable for women to have a natural birth here in Germany and they are hesitant to schedule a C-Section without a pre-existing condition such as a traumatic birth. Weird thing in Germany is that it is extremely rare for the doctors to practice in their own office and in the hospital like in the states. In other words, who I have been seeing for prenatal care is not the person who will deliver Baby Grimm at the hospital. I will have a completely different team, one that exclusively works at the hospital in deliveries. Additionally, since we have private insurance the head of the Labor & Delivery department will be the one to do the delivery. We’ve met her twice now and she is wonderful and speaks very good English. 

In other news, I will also be helping with the birth*. After the incisions have been made, they drop the curtain and I will push from the top of my abdomen. I was already reassured that there would be no blood sighting and that its really cool.  This is one of the only hospitals in the world to do C-Sections this way. They think it helps the mom bond with the baby because she get to help. We’ll see… However, due to the Coronavirus, there is a strict no visitor policy in place at the hospital. Jeff will be with me in the delivery room for Christopher Willis but once he leaves the hospital, he is only permitted in again when picking me up…after the mandated 5 day recovery. I think in all of this, that is what makes me the most nervous especially because while the doctors speak English, the nurses don’t. Guess I’ll be living through google translate.

April 18, 2020 (email to family): As many of you know, we welcomed Christopher Willis Grimm to the world on April 7, 2020 or as the Europeans write it 7/4/2020 (Carson was born on Grandpa Dieter’s birthday so for me, the European way of writing the date is our little nod to Grammy Dieter).  

Meet Baby Christopher
Meet Baby Christopher

Thankfully the planned C-Section was/is much easier to recover from then the unplanned/emergency one with Carson. Christopher is 11 days old and I’m feeling much better this time around. Jeff, Carson, Christopher and I go on daily walks around the abandoned messe (convention center) near our house. We’ve even found a large, empty parking lot for Carson to run around. Being cooped up in the house is not great for a 2 year old with a ton of energy.

Giving birth in the time of Covid-19 and in Germany has definitely been interesting. Jeff was allowed into the delivery room for the C-Section but after about 3 hours in the recovery ward, he was kicked out and not allowed to visit. As you can see from one of the pictures, he and Carson visited but we could only wave from the windows. Additionally, I got to experience the very German way of eating and some extremely traditional German meals while in the hospital. For instance, breakfast and dinner are composed of the same things…2 pieces of bread, a pad of butter, 2 slices of deli meat & 2 slices of cheese. Lunch on the the other hand was usually some sort of gravy covered meat, a potato option, and white asparagus. 

Hospital Visitors

I was originally slated to stay in the hospital for 5 days but with the virus, they want healthy moms and babies to go home as soon as possible. Luckily for us, that meant only 3 days in the hospital. In other words, Christopher and I have been home for a week and our family is slowly adjusting to being a family of 4. Carson is asserting her dominance/control over food and only requesting chocolate bunnies for every meal (thanks a lot Easter Bunny). Other then the occasional meltdown and additional screen time, she seems to like having a baby brother…so far. She likes to identify his nose, eyes, & ears and thinks he’s “cute.” 

Grimm Party of 4

Speaking of Carson, she just had her 2nd birthday. As you can see by the pictures, she loves everything Elsa/Frozen. To say she is obsessed is an understatement. At this point she has seen Frozen I & II so many times that she repeats lines and can sing many of the words to the songs. Since all non-essential stores are closed in Germany, I tried my hand at making her an Elsa Barbie cake. I still have a lot to learn but think its pretty good for a first attempt and all from scratch. She loved it and that’s all that mattered. 

Carson’s 2nd Birthday

I’m sure there are a million more things I could share but lack of sleep is preventing me from remembering. We would love to hear from you. Please email, call, Facetime, set up a Zoom. We miss you all and miss sharing this experience with you. 

July 18, 2020: The time of COVID-19 is not over yet but because of Germany’s strict policies regarding social gatherings and mandatory mask wearing, we have mostly resumed normal daily life. Everyone is required to wear masks in stores and public places where social distancing is not possible. Yes, there are a few who protest the mask but for the most part Germans understand that in wearing the mask they are doing the most they can for the community. It is much less a “me” society and more of a “we” society in regards to COVID.

*I was not able to help with the birth and “push” because as the doctor put it “he was hiding”. But, they did drop the curtain so Jeff and I were able to see him for the first time at the same time.

Celebrating with Fire

Our mid-March adventure took us to Valencia, Spain for Las Fallas with our Swedish/Spanish friends (we’ll get back to them in a bit). Jeff and I had heard about this festival in Spain where they build these beautiful sculptures then burn them to the ground on the last day. Without knowing much more, we decided to go and bought our plane tickets. What could be better than a festival where everything is burned…besides Burning Man?

Year of the Woman!

A little background: Each year the many different neighborhoods in Valencia (around 350) sponsor and build a Fallas* composed of ninots** that are based on a broad theme. Sometimes the theme is satirical and usually focuses on local, national or world politics and events. Sometimes the theme pokes fun at trending societal norms and daily life. Familiar faces (celebrities, world leaders, and famous locals) make up the ninots which help tell the story, compose the theme and make up the gigantic Fallas standing between 35-50 feet tall.

Ninots are used to create the larger Fallas.

Fallas and Ninots

*Fallas means fire and refers to both the festival as well as the large statues/structures created.

**Ninot is a smaller statue. Many ninots together create a Fallas.


Beachy Keen!

Where did this tradition stem from? Great question, I’m so glad you asked. In the 15th century, carpenters in Valencia would have to work by candle light and special lanterns in the evening during the winter months. The eve before the spring equinox and subsequently also the day of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpentry (March 19), the carpenters would stack their wood scraps, candle wax, and other junk they found when spring cleaning into the middle of the street and set it a blaze! By the end of the 18th century the wood scraps were formed to look like people, usually celebrating well known locals.

Well known locals

So…way back when the fallas were made out of wood, candle wax and junk, what are they made of now? Again, excellent question. Now, the ninots and fallas are made of wood and papier-mâché. Artists spend hundreds of hours meticulously constructing, sanding and painting the papier-mâché ninots. The artists and designers get one day, March 15, to take all of the ninots and erect the fallas in the middle of the street. Reminder, there are at least 350 of these being constructed at the same time and that just talks about the large fallas. Each neighborhood also sponsors a fallas infantiles or children’s smaller fallas only about one-third the size of the regular fallas. There are 600+ fallas, large and small, around Valencia during the festival.

Fallas Infantiles

Children’s Fallas

So what exactly happens? When do we get to the burning of these beautiful sculptures? Patrons of each neighborhood walk to the Plaza de la Virgen in traditional Valencia costume with an offering of flowers for the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Forsaken. These flower offerings then cover the statue of the Virgin Mary…no, she does not go up in flames during this festival.  Women are dressed in beautiful bodices and flowing skirts of various colors with their hair plaited and decorated with gold pins and covered in veils of lace. Many of the dresses have been in the families for generations and even serve as wedding dresses. Men, also known as falleros are dressed like pirates in black pants, black jacket, white shirt and colorful scarves and tend to carry flasks.

Traditional dress, band, parade and flower offering.

A band, las desperta, is placed at the start of each neighborhood parade and firecrackers follow. Speaking of firecrackers, everyone and I mean everyone is either throwing poppers or lighting firecrackers. The bigger and louder the noise, the better. There is also a fire parade, Cavalcada de Foc, leading the casal faller or fire starters through the streets to their respective falla and incorporate colorful, noisy fire displays.

Cavalcada de Foc or Fire Parade

March 19 at 10:00 pm (22:00) around the city, the smaller fallas, fallas infantiles, are lit. The larger structures don’t burn until 12:00 am (00:00) the morning of March 20. Fireworks are places inside and around the fallas to start the burning of these incredibly beautiful structures also known as La Crema. After a 5-10 minute firework display (in each neighborhood at each fallas) that rivals 4th of July firework displays in the states, the fallas eventually catches fire and they burn baby, burn. From start to finish the entire fallas has burnt to the ground in around 30 min leaving nothing behind but a smoldering pile of rubble. By morning, clean up has happened and one would never have guessed that these magnificent structures had even existed.

Falla and Falla Infantile before and after.

Back to our Swedish/Spanish friends. Jeff and I met them on our honeymoon cruise in 2016. They had delicious looking deserts so I just had to ask what they ordered and if it was any good. My inquiry about sweet treats led to a wonderful conversation and lifelong friends. They were so kind to visit us in Chicago for New Year 2017 and we were finally able to visit them this year in Spain! We spent a few days with them in Torrevieja before heading to Valencia. Their hospitality is unmatched! We had an extraordinary visit and hope to see them again soon.

Our Swedish/Spanish Friends