VERY overdue blog post about giving birth in Germany

I have lost count of the number of times I have set up a blog, done a couple of posts and then lost momentum and it seems that this blog might go the same way unless I put a concerted effort into using it!  Therefore I am making an almost mid-year resolution to post more regularly….. wish me luck keeping this resolution as I am notoriously bad at sticking to them usually!

Anyway, onto the real reason for this blog post.  During my pregnancy (which seemed to go on FOREVER) and since the birth of my very gorgeous little boy I have discovered a new found love of reading people’s birth stories.  This is something that has somewhat taken me by surprise but I suppose it is because it is reassuring to know that people survive birth and go onto put themselves through it all over again for future babies (three months in and the very idea of being pregnant again sends a shiver down my spine…..)  My birth story goes something like this……

Sunday 24th February 2013
The husband and I arrived at the local hospital at 8am for our pre-arranged potential induction appointment.  As he was meant to be in Kenya at this point (on an army exercise) and was pushing his flight back on a daily basis we were very hopeful that, as I was by now 7 days overdue, the midwives and doctors would look kindly on us and start pumping me with the necessary drugs to get things moving.  I understand that in some people’s eyes my decision to be induced was controversial but I really wanted my husband to be there for the birth of our first child and knew that if I went much further overdue this would be impossible.  Thankfully we got the green light, had a lovely final scan (where I was told “he is not a small baby” – er thanks for that just as I am about to be put into labour) and after I had removed three fingers worth of my Shellac manicure (sob) off we went to the little room to get the first pills.  It appears that my boy just needed a bit of encouragement to make his appearance as my contractions started very quickly.  At this point they were also pretty much pain free and I came to the conclusion that if they carried on in this way it would all be pretty easy – HAHAHAHAHA!!!  The rest of Sunday passed in a blur of tablets every four hours, regular but easy contractions and being rigged up to the ECG machine.  At 6pm they made me cry by saying that there would be no more tablets until Monday –  at this point I just wanted him out as I was increasingly worried about having to wave my husband off from the hospital whilst still in labour – so we went to our very lovely room (a three bed room we had all to ourselves) and watched the rather limited TV.  Army people will know that BFBS has its limitations particularly when you only have BFBS 1…….  The husband went home about 10.30pm leaving me to Dancing on Ice, ‘mineralwasser mit sprudel’ and some Happy Cherry Haribo (I don’t know what they do to teabags over here to make tea taste so weird but it is to be avoided at all costs)  I then endeavoured to get some sleep but this was made nigh on impossible by the fact that the lady next door had had twins and kept wheeling them up and down the corridor outside my room whilst they screamed blue murder.

Monday 25th February – Tuesday 26th February 2013
At 2am I felt an enormous kick and heard an enormous pop (hadn’t expected that!) and my waters broke.  Instantly the ‘easy’ contractions ceased and were replaced with proper ones.  I pressed my call button and the midwives came instantly to check me over before returning with the ECG machine.  At 6am they started me on the induction drugs again and I decided it was time to wake the husband up and get him back to the hospital.  Once he arrived he rigged me up to the TENs machine (a pleasant distraction which ultimately became hugely irritating) and we got into the routine of contractions, grabbing some fresh air and being hooked up to the ECG machine.  The midwives were insistent on me lying down when on the ECG but after I vomited all over the floor (we were on our own in the room and couldn’t find a bowl anywhere) they let me stand up which was much easier.  At about 5pm I asked if I could have a bath and then spent a blissful hour emerged in very hot water being looked after by a lovely student midwife.  Unfortunately this came to an end when my baby’s heart-rate shot up and I was made to get out.  Interestingly, his heart rate stayed high until I had been for a wee – guess he was squashed – but they wouldn’t let me back in the bath again…..  Instead they gave me a water IV and said it would help with the pain – it doesn’t.
At about 10pm I decided I had had enough and asked for some pain relief.  It is not common for German hospitals to offer gas and air (some have it just for the British Army patients but my local hospital doesn’t) and so this was not an option.  They offered an epidural and at 32 hours in with very little sleep I willingly accepted.  The anaesthetist came almost immediately and within minutes I was entering a blissed out state of no pain and managing to doze a little bit (as did my husband who was brought his own bed so that he could also get his head down)  Two hours later they gave me a top up (bliss!) but after this it all started to go a bit downhill…..  At 2am I informed them that I could feel my contractions again. “That is right Mrs_____, it is soon time for you to push.  Your body knows what to do” Unfortunately, having lost the momentum of labour thanks to the epidural my body didn’t really know what to do and I couldn’t really do what I was meant to be doing.  I can remember them making me kneel on the bed with my arms on the raised head end and I can remember getting infuriated that they kept tring to cover my bottom with a sheet (ummmm I think I have already lost all dignity so I wouldn’t bother now!)  When I was unable to push properly the senior midwife put her hand inside me and told me to bear down on it.  That was almost more painful than the contractions.  She then told me that if the baby didn’t come in the next two hours they would need to intervene.  At this point I was more than happy for them to wheel me off to theatre there and then as I couldn’t possibly see how I was going to give birth naturally.  They then gave me some homeopathic tablets and told me they would help – they don’t.  They simply tasted of weird mints – if I wanted some fake polo mints I would bring some.  The next hour passed in a blur before my legs were shoved in stirrups and a doctor arrived with the ventouse equipment.  At 0602 my little boy was sucked out of me and put on my chest under a mountain of duvets and blankets “he might be an English baby but he has been born in a German hospital.  Cover him up!!”  I was then kept in the stirrups whilst a doctor who spoke no English (the midwife translated so everything was said twice which made it feel like everything took FOREVER) stitched me up.  The husband was asked to bring the baby over to be checked and was told “do not turn around!” so as to not be exposed to my lady parts in all their third degree tear glory.  The stitching took what seemed like forever but eventually I was allowed to put my legs down (bliss!) and we got moved back to our room on the ward.  I subsequently stayed in hospital for 48 hours (it is normal to stay in for up to a week in Germany so the nurses thought I was insane for going home so early) during which we got told off for any number of things (him not wearing a hat, him wearing a hat, not using the fishtank to wheel him around etc etc etc etc) and we had one night at home as a new little family before my husband flew out to Kenya for the next six weeks.  Thanks to amazing family and friends the time flew by and he was soon back to get to know his little boy.

Having never given birth before I can’t compare Germany to anywhere else but I thought it would be interesting to put a list of pros and cons to giving birth here so that if I do ever have a baby in the UK I can compare.

Pros:

  • The hospital feels a bit like a hotel!
  • High staffing ratio meant I was never without a student midwife and had excellent access to fully qualified midwives – on the Sunday we were the only people on the delivery ward initially!
  • Time in hospital to make sure you feel confident, the baby is feeding (and help with breastfeeding if that is the route you take)
  • Liaison officers make sure that (in most cases) things do not get lost in translation
  • Very pro natural birth and breast feeding
  • Loads of scans throughout pregnancy and when you are induced/go into labour
  • Single rooms or shared with only one other person
  • AMAZING cakes with lunch
Cons:
  • Cultural differences meant we got told off constantly for our baby not wearing enough clothes despite the hospital being absolutely boiling
  • Taking away my Epidural – my British midwife couldn’t understand why this had been done and nor could my Dad (who is a GP) – which meant I lost momentum.  If they had made it clear that this would be done I might have persevered without it.
  • No gas and air.
  • There is only so much bread, meat and cheese for breakfast and dinner you can eat
  • BFBS tv is not that great so next time I will load up the iPad.
Three months in I am loving motherhood and if I can squeeze in another pregnancy out here before we get posted again I definitely would as the health service seems to be far less stretched than our beloved NHS.
Mili x