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Günther ist geboren!

A (Ful)bright Future

Günther ist geboren!

Olivia Wilkins

On May 6, 2015, I presented the baby of my undergraduate chemistry career to the Department of Chemistry at Dickinson College. After about nine months dedicated to researching polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in coaltar-based sealcoats and 19 pages of thesis, my work came to life at my defense. This year, on May 6, 2016, I present to the world (i.e. bring home from the Uniklinik Köln) my Fulbright baby—Günther Albert Wilkins Sauers, geboren am 3. Mai 2016, um 04:38, the result of nine moths of pregnancy and nearly 19 hours of labor (12 of which were active).

My Fulbright baby

Günther is very special for many reasons beyond the obvious that he is the product of love between myself and my partner, husband, and best friend—Alex Sauers. Günther is, to me, what every astronomer (at least once in their career) wants to encounter—a new lifeform. He is the product of growth, specifically my own personal growth; just a year ago, I insisted I wouldn't have any chidren until at least 10 years in the future, when I was out of grad school and had secured a rather stable job. However, over the course of a few months, a baby went from a far-off plan to a joke about bringing home a living souvenir from Alex's and my first year of marriage in Germany to a beautiful and unbelievable reality. He is here, and we couldn't be happier to have him in our lives.

Günther is also the manifestation of what makes Alex's and my relationship so fun—spontaneity and a continuous desire to challenge each other. After my May 6, 2015, defense, I graduated from Dickinson with my Bachelor's in Chemistry and Mathematics, and Alex and I got married on July 11, 2015. As if our summer weren't exciting enough, we moved to Germany less than three weeks later, beginning with a second honeymoon, for a nearly-year-long adventure during which I was granted a Fulbright research fellowship. During our first week in Germany, enchanted by Marburg an der Lahn, we asked ourselves how crazy it would be if we brought home a baby... except this time, it was no joke. Keeping with our ever-blossoming just-go-with-it approach to our lives together, we agreed that whatever happens, happens, and we'd be happy with it. Sure enough at the end of August, I started to feel tired and nauseous frequently. I was too happy with the start of our lives together to be stressed or anxious; rather, these were signs that we were having a baby.

Just out of delivery

At the time we first realized pregnancy could be our reality, we were still in Marburg for a language and culture course. In one of our classes, we learned that—should we have a baby in Germany—it would not be a dual U.S.-German citizen; German citizenship would not be possible. Without question, Alex and I agreed that if we brought home a baby without German citizenship, we'd bring home one with a German name instead.

It was on one of our culture course trips—to Frankfurt in late August—that Alex and I agreed on a name, still uncertain whether we were actually pregnant (we had yet to figure out where to buy and how to use a pregnancy test). In the old Rathaus in Frankfurt, we gazed upon portraits of old German rulers. We laughed at the prospect of bringing home a little Günther, about as German as you can get with both an umlaut and being derived from strong words related to war.

The name obviously stuck. Two weeks later, we stumbled through our German to find a Schwangerschaftstest (which I managed to ruin because A) the directions were in German and I had no idea how to use one even auf Englisch, and B) I was too nervous to make a successful test). After some disappointment and tears (I was already getting pretty hormonal mid-September), we opted for a multi-pack in case I managed to ruin any more tests. Two positives later and after our move to Köln, we were fairly certain that our tiny one-room apartment would house three by May.

Finally awake at one-day-old

At the beginning of Oktober, Alex and I excitedly told our parents, who of course could not believe the news. To them, a living, breathing German souvenir was still a joke. Once the seriousness of our news set in, we had nothing but support. Nevertheless, there was still the matter of getting ein Termin beim Gynäkologe with broken German.

I disclosed the likelihood of my pregnancy with my mentor at the Universität, Nadine, mentioning my fears of making my first Termin with limited vocabulary. Without hesitation, she offered to make me an appointment and make sure I could have one in English. She also managed to get me an appointment within a week (whereas I'd typically have to wait about five or six) and on 23. Oktober 2015, it was confirmed: I was 14 weeks pregnant. Our potential Günther was a reality.

Throwing his arms up from under the blanket I knit him. Can we please take a moment to appreciate the color coordination between his onesie, the curtain behind the BabyBay, the blanket, and the Uniklinik hat?

After crying some tears of joy, I chatted with Alex excitedly about what were were going to do when little Günther arrived in late April. Slowly, the Schwangerschaftsubelskeit faded and was replaced with a loss of appetite for anything not chicken fingers, pizza, or pasta. I ate like a teenage boy, but I relished in the fact that I might be feeding a little boy after becoming so attached to the name Günther. In December, Alex and I went to our appointment, holding our breath that we would in fact be having a boy; we were not looking forward to giving our baby any name but Günther. With great relief, we found out searching for a German name, complete with umlaut, for a girl would not be necessary.

Over the last half of my pregnancy, Alex and I became increasingly excited about our future with Günther in the picture. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, chatting about walking around Pasadena (where we'll be living while I attend grad school at Caltech) with the Kinderwagen and going to Space Camp in seven years once our son is old enough. We imagined the three of us cooking dinner together, visiting National Parks on the West Coast, and traveling around the world for conferences, post-doc appointments, and other adventures. Although many days Günther seemed as far from real as possible, we could not wait to meet the little guy.

Our first family photo

And finally, we have met him. He is even more wonderful than we could have imagined. Perhaps it is the drunkenness of having a newborn, but being with Günther is a dream (even after two Category 5 and one Category 4 diapers already). Alex and I are so fluid together and ecstatic to be Günther's parents. And to think, a year ago I would have never considered bringing home a baby today. I'm so glad I changed my mind.