We did it! We birthed a baby in Germany! Well, I did, anyway. 🙂
This is our third baby and the first time I watched my due date come and go… Clancy was born 3 days late. And honestly, thanks to Germany’s 6 weeks of leave before your due date, I was actually well-rested and peaceful. (And of course I knew that post partum can actually be less fun than 41 weeks pregnant… so I was OK waiting.)
Of course, this is the moment where I give the story… so take it or leave it 🙂 (I’ll never know! And I totally understand if birth stories aren’t your thing. Oh, and I promise that I won’t give too many details.)
At 11:30 pm, I woke up.
Contraction 1. Laying in bed and suddenly, I felt the urge to push. You know, the one that comes *after* transition. “Say what??” I thought to myself.
Contraction 2. PAIN. Wake up Brian and inform him that this is it. Hold his hand and squeeze it off. PAIN.
Contraction 3. “Brian. I want to push. I don’t feel comfortable being at home.”
Brian pops RIGHT UP.
So, I dress and he packs the final items. Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself that I’m terrified I will have 7-15 hours of labor at this level of intensity and suddenly feel thoroughly exhausted. (I labored 15 hours with my first and 7 with my second.)
My amazing and lovely neighbor came to our aid and stayed with our older kids. We climbed in the car and I counted the minutes by number of contractions… I think I had 3 contractions in the car, and we started to discuss the fact that there’s no parking lot and we’re at the mercy of street parking. Do I want to be dropped off alone at the ER door where they might not speak English? No, not really… So cue two contractions on the walk from car to ER door. Yes, I squatted and held on to a bicycle rack on the side of a street, praying that I wouldn’t birth the baby… and hoping I wouldn’t be embarrassed by a greeting, exam and a send home due to not being dilated. Not to worry.
They wheeled me from the ER to the labor floor… but there was no room at the inn. “All of our birth rooms are occupied or being cleaned, so why don’t you wait here in the waiting room.” “Ok. Just so you know–I feel like pushing.” I say. “Oh,” she said very kindly, “Is this your first?” “Uh, no. My third.” I watched as her face transitioned just like I felt like I had transitioned and she said, “Follow me. We’ll put you in an observation room.”
Within 10 minutes of being in the observation room and declaring me fully dilated, all talk of an actual birthing room disappeared and I knew we were exactly where we would be when we met our son for the first time. “I need to go to the bathroom.” “Go ahead”, the midwife says, and then sternly follows it up with, “Please don’t push in there and have the baby.” I assured her that I would not go having that baby alone. I wanted her in the room.
I returned. I pushed. My water broke. First time that’s ever happened naturally! Then things really picked up, but I was parched… they had no water for me at the inn (I feel ya, Mary), and all we had was a huge 1-liter water bottle that I couldn’t use because I was kneeling… I simply couldn’t tip it back and drink… So, I asked for a straw. The midwife gave me a look that spoke a thousand words and said, “You really want me to leave right now and get you a straw??” “Yeah!” I thought in my head, with all the sass of my 16-year-old self. In the end she offered me a catheter tube as a make-shift straw… and Hooray! I had water. Thank God.
We had arrived at the hospital about 12:30 and at 1:55, Clancy arrived. Thankfully, I didn’t have to endure the intensity of 7 or 15 hours… It was a whopping 2.5 hours from first contraction to newborn, and I was so grateful when it was over.
He was our biggest baby at birth and some how seemed “grown” from moment one. A full pound and 2 ounces bigger than my first baby. We watched him as he nursed like a champ right away and we fussed over his occasional blue skin, but mostly we were amazed at how much morphing and changing his looks did in those first two hours. So wild.
In hindsight, I’m very grateful for the small amount of time we had in that observation room because as soon as we got to the Mother/Baby unit, Brian was invited to go home. It was 4 am and the ward was so full that we weren’t able to get a family room to ourselves. I shared a room and there was (also) no room at the inn for Brian. To complicate things, our house was not sickness free, so we spent much of the next two days separated while we tried our best to be together, but not infecting the ward with our 4- and 6-year old germs. (Oh, and Brian caught the flu 2 days before my due date… so he quarantined himself before we knew how popular quarantining would be in about a month… He nursed a high fever and flu, occasionally asking with trepidation whether I was in labor… thankfully, he was able to be at the birth!… fever free.)
The Mother/Baby unit was nothing too surprising or foreign. The baby’s crib was wooden, making it feel more homey, and the bed was outfitted with a nursing pillow–a massive one–and it was more than ideal.
But do you see that heater above the changing station in our room? It was 24-hours into my 48-hour stay when my roommate finally figured out that that heater was on full-blast… I had spent 24 hours with a space heater on full blast about 4 feet from my head… to say the least between that and my hormones, I was not exactly comfortable. I was *so relieved* when it was turned off and I could finally breathe again–I was so overheated!
There’s something very real about the German “One hot meal per day” rule… so we were offered bread and salami fare for both breakfast and dinner. My first hot meal delivered to me (10 hours after giving birth) was a highly disappointing vegan potato and vegetable soup. I watched as my roommate was delivered chicken, broccoli and several sides. I was wondering why I was being punished. Turns out that every mother’s first post-birth meal in German is vegan soup. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was. LOL. (After birthing my first I ate pot roast… and I still remember it being delicious… and it was hospital food…)
To make matters worse, I had been asked what I wanted to order for dinner the next day and was mistakenly under the impression that I was going to get chicken that day… NOPE. I had confused the mostly-in-German conversation about the DANG CHICKEN that appeared not to be anywhere in sight. It came the next day at lunch, 34 hours after Clancy was born. It was also mostly disappointing. In all honesty, the salami and cheese and Brötchen (bread) became my favorite two meals of each day.
When it was all said and done, Brian really won the prize.
He bounced between home life, keeping life as normal as possible for our older two, and selflessly bringing cappuccinos to me and trying to get as much time with Clancy while not being invited to stay past visiting hours. As he juggled all the logistics, he sent me my favorite text of my two day stay:
“Do you want me to bring your compression hose?”
I laugh-cried. 5 months of compression hose every day. Good riddance.
Oh, and George wrote me a note with my chocolate… that was my favorite message of the two days:
The sweetest part of welcoming Clancy was the gift of welcoming him into something: our family. The joy on my older children’s faces as they got to hold him for the first time was an amazing privilege to watch. We are so blessed.
We cannot imagine life without him, and we’re all eager for him to be even more a part of the fabric of our lives as he grows and develops.
Welcome, kiddo. We love you.
In case you want more…