Having a baby the German way

Right around Christmas time in Berlin I found out we were expecting our third bundle of joy.  While I was excited about the new addition, I was not looking forward to giving birth in a different country.  But as I started doing more research I became excited at the prospect of delivering a baby in a country where they take a natural and holistic approach to most things, including pregnancy and child birth.

I had my other two children in the states and I did not enjoy the American style of labor and delivery which seems focused on drugging you up, and then getting you out as quickly as possible. My first was born in Boston and I did not appreciate all the medical interventions they tried to push on me. They tried to convince me to induce when I was one day late, they tried to give me an epidural which I did not want, and they succeeded in giving me an episiotomy, explaining that I wouldn’t tear this way. Well I tore anyway so it made for a very painful recovery.  Because of this experience I vowed that I would take more control of my second birthing experience when I had my son in New York a few years later. I hired a doula and we laid out a plan for using natural remedies to help prevent tearing, and to labor at home for as long as possible to prevent unwanted medical interventions at the hospital. The plan didn’t work out so well when labor moved so fast that I ended up giving birth in a car while racing to the hospital. My son had some initial breathing problems but was ultimately fine. I just wish I hadn’t been so scared of what the hospital would do and thus avoided the whole highway birth thing.

So this brings me to Berlin. Upon finding a doctor recommended to me by another basketball wife, I learned that in Germany your pregnancy is cared for by both a doctor and a midwife, and the midwife is who will ultimately deliver your baby. You see each of them once a month so you are being checked on every two weeks. The midwife even comes to you for each visit, unless you prefer to go to them. You can choose to have a midwife to care for you throughout your pregnancy and deliver your baby, which is what I chose to do. If your midwife doesn’t have privileges at your hospital of choice, you will be delivered by one of the on call midwives which is really a crapshoot, especially if you don’t speak German. The midwife will also do all of the post baby visits, coming to check on you and the baby every week for 6 weeks after delivery. Since this was my third pregnancy I didn’t need much from my midwife, but anytime I had a pain or problem she would come over and with an herb or oil or some other holistic concoction. I also didn’t have to convince her to give me the kind of birth experience I wanted because they don’t believe in unnecessary interventions. For some it can be off putting, but for me it seemed perfect. They don’t rely on epidurals and you will be hard pressed to find a hospital that will even offer one. They encourage breastfeeding to the point where it is simply expected that you will nurse your baby. They don’t even have nurseries, it is just a given that your baby will room with you for the 4 or 5 days you will be in the hospital, unless you choose to leave earlier.

All of this was exactly what I wanted. I was going to have a water birth and I was going to love it! The problem is that my husband is a 6ft 11in giant and we tend to have big babies. My first was almost 10 pounds and my second (who came a week early in the car) was almost 9 pounds. This baby seemed to take the cake as he was growing so fast and my stomach was out of this world. Had I been in the states they would have surely pushed for an early induction but in Germany they believe that your body will know when it is ready and if that takes an extra 2 or 3 weeks then so be it. However, I didn’t have that much time. As is the basketball life, my husband signed with a new team and he had to report to training camp in Turkey just three weeks from my due date. So when my due date came and went we had to put a stop to the madness.

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I was induced one week past my due date, when I just couldn’t take it anymore. The induction itself was not bad. There were no tubes or needles and I was not made to lay in bed waiting for contractions to kick in. I checked into my spacious family room and was given half of a cervidil pill and told I could walk around, relax, or do what ever I liked as long as I came back to the labor wing once an hour to have the baby’s heart rate monitored. After another half a pill and 8 hours of feeling nothing I finally went into labor and jumped into the birthing tub. It was just my husband, the midwife, and myself. The contractions were unbearable but I had been through this twice before with no drugs and I knew my labors were intense, I just figured it wouldn’t last long. The water did take some of the edge off, but after laboring for a few hours and trying different positions, I felt like something was wrong and then my son’s heart rate started to rapidly drop. I was rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section and because they couldn’t stop the contractions they had to put me to sleep to deliver him. He was born healthy at a whopping 11 pounds exactly. The biggest baby born at the hospital they said. However, because of his size and the amount of amniotic fluid I had, my uterus was stretched so much that it wouldn’t contract (called uterine atony). I had three amazing doctors working on me and they explained that they were on the verge of giving me a hysterectomy because I was hemorrhaging blood and would die if it continued. They felt I was too young for something so drastic so they tried one last procedure (too gross to explain) and thankfully it worked. Hell of an experience though.

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I spent 11 days in the hospital, and could have stayed longer but I was dying to get out of that room. My husband and toddler were able to stay with me so I wasn’t completely alone, but it was pretty traumatic and I was an emotional mess. I was thankful that my son was healthy but I couldn’t help but wonder why they let me go so far past my due date knowing that my son was so big, and why they were willing to let me go weeks more. Every doctor I’ve seen since has questioned why I wasn’t induced when it became clear the baby had grown larger than 10 pounds. My midwife said that she thought my body could handle it since I had delivered other big babies naturally, but clearly this one broke the mold. I don’t blame anyone (well maybe my husband!) because I received great care throughout my pregnancy and after, but it sucks that in the land of holistic medicine and minimal intervention I ended up with every intervention possible. He sure is cute though!

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