This year I haven’t written many blog posts. I suppose there are many reasons why blogs suddenly go quiet. In my case, it wasn’t for lack of things to write about. We went on several exciting trips that I haven’t yet managed to post about (India last year in December, Iceland in March, Mauritius in November) and locally, we went on a lot of weekend or day trips within Germany or over the Czech border. So why the radio silence?
2019 has been a busy year, a year of change. At the end of June, by boss retired, and his department shut down. This had been planned for a long time, but that didn’t make it easier. The last few months of 2018 and the first six months of 2019 were exceptionally busy trying to finish everything off before the labs closed. Years worth of research samples had to be either processed, discarded, or sent to other institutes for future use. A colleague and I were lucky enough to be given two months after the closure of the labs to work on reports and manuscripts. At the same time, of course, we were busy looking for new jobs. Due to the workload, we did not take some of our leave days and got paid out instead. We also didn’t take the leave days allocated for the extra two months either. Time was simply too critical.
But, it was summer. So my husband and I still made good use of the weekends, squeezing in hiking trips, canoeing, trips to the lake, trips to the German winelands.
There weren’t really any suitable jobs in my field, at my career stage, in Berlin. A job opening came up in Würzburg, so I applied, and went for an interview in June. I was offered the job, and after much deliberation and discussion with my husband, we decided I should take it and give it a go in Würzburg. He found a job there as well, in a new company. We were both to start in mid-November. We’d had a little look at the town in the weekend in between our interviews, and it seemed nice enough. It was a student town, much smaller than Berlin, but nestled among vineyards. There seemed to be enough possibilities for outdoor activities in the area.
About a month after I had accepted the new job, I found out I was pregnant. This was something I hadn’t expected in the least! At 40, and after three years of marriage, I’d sort of assumed it wasn’t possible for me to have kids. As I’d experienced how exhausting it was looking after kids from babysitting my nephew and niece, I was ok with being kid-free. However, my husband was keen for at least one kid, so I thought I’d leave it up to fate.
Fate decided we should have a kid. The first weeks of pregnancy, especially at my age, are always risky, and I worried about whether the baby would survive. At my age, this was probably my last chance. But so far this kid is growing away perfectly happily. At six weeks, the doctor could already see the heartbeat, and at ten weeks it was already dancing around. Now it it is at 19 weeks and I have started to feel it moving. This week we will find out if it’s a boy or a girl.
I was faced with the difficult task of telling my brand-new boss that I was pregnant. Pregnancy is particularly tricky when you work in a research lab, as there are many things you are not allowed to do, that would normally be part of your job. For instance, you can’t work with blood, or work in biosafety labs. I was anxious that my new boss would be angry or upset when I told him the news. I knew he’d hired me because he needed someone to perform specific tasks, and that after 5 months of work I’d have to leave already for maternity leave. As a result, I thought it would be more fair to tell him before I signed the contract, and give him a chance to hire somebody else instead.
To my relief, he was amazingly understanding and kind, and still wanted to hire me. Part of me was very relieved; part of me secretly wished I’d had an excuse to stay in Berlin and not move to Wūrzburg. I’m not really a big fan of change.
After my old work contract finished, I had two and a half months before we’d have to move to Würzburg. For almost the first two months, I still went into my old institute (unpaid) to carry on working on manuscripts and reports, as did my other colleague, who was also now unpaid. In the research world, the manuscripts are important for your own career, and not something you can just let go once your contract finishes. Research always goes on. So no holidays for us, just a bit more of a relaxed pace. I enjoyed keeping the same routine as always, riding my bike into work, going for a coffee break with my colleague, seeing people I knew. The paperwork required for my new job also kept me busy, as an amazing amount of it was required. Time passed, and summer started to fade into autumn.
Finally came my husband’s last day at work in Berlin. We flew off to Cape Town, so that I could spend some time with my family before starting the new job, and before it became impossible to fly. In the middle of our visit, we also took a holiday in Mauritius, knowing that after the baby would come it might be some time before we could travel again.
The holiday flew by. Too soon, it was time to return to Germany. We arrived back to Berlin, unpacked all the summer clothes out of our suitcases, and filled them with winter clothes for Würzburg. The same day, we got in a car and drove to Würzburg. The new chapter would begin…