Birthing Superdude, Part 2

Yesterday we brought you Part 1 of the German Teacher’s amazing birthing experience. Here’s Part 2!

Labor and Delivery, cont.

At around 12:30pm, the midwife broke my water and I had the urge to start pushing.  The midwife then asked me to sit and brace one leg against her waist, and asked me to hold my other leg as the contractions came.  At first I thought to myself, “are you crazy?  I’m huge and barely limber and you want me to do what?”  But I did as she asked, and it was a great position to give birth.  It felt surprisingly natural for me to brace my legs that way so I could push.  I was also feeling unbearably hot and flushed, so my husband used a damp cloth to wipe off my face for me.

I was in a lot of pain, but it was manageable, in large part because of how the midwife helped me with breathing and also how she had me positioned.  She also gave me a citrus homeopathic nose spray to help manage the pain.  My contractions started to get slightly irregular and some weren’t as strong as they needed to be, so the midwife first consulted my doctor (who was on his way to the clinic) and then she asked me if it would be okay to give me just a little Pitocin.  I readily agreed because I too felt it would help.  After the midwife administered the drip for the Pitocin, I immediately noticed the difference in terms of the intensity and regularity of my contractions.  By this point, the baby was well on his way and things progressed very quickly.

My doctor had not yet arrived, so one of the other doctors came to attend to me until my doctor arrived.  This doctor said to me, “Your baby is having a bit of trouble getting around the curve of your pelvis.  I should also tell you that I’m known as the slightly mean doctor,” he joked.  “I’m going to help you push your baby around the curve of your pelvis, by pushing down on him.”  And sure enough, the doctor pressed down on my stomach to push the baby down; I believe that the midwife guided the baby’s head as the doctor did this.  My husband said that from his perspective, it looked as if the doctor was trying to get the very last pickle out of the pickle jar!  And it worked; our baby needed that extra little shove to get his head around the pelvis.  If you’re wondering if this procedure hurt, I can’t honestly remember, but I can tell you I was both grateful for the doctor’s assistance and relieved because almost immediately, my baby reached the point where he crowned.

Here he is!

As the doctor guided my baby, the midwife told me she could see his hair, which gave me a little extra encouragement to keep working through the contractions.  My own doctor had arrived to finish the delivery of our baby.  I will freely admit that I was in a lot of pain, especially as the baby crowned.  Knowing that labor would be over very soon helped me not think about the pain too much.  As I had commented to the midwife earlier, the pain wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it served to help me know that my contractions were productive.

Finally, at 1:53 pm, our baby’s head emerged and then I was easily able to push out his body.  Since I didn’t have pain medication, I acutely felt the sensations of pushing out his head and his body.  I liked feeling everything, despite the intense pain, because I knew I was in control the whole time during all aspects of labor.  After our baby was born, the midwife quickly toweled him off and put him on my chest, covering him and me so we would stay warm.  I was able to start nursing him right away and enjoy that intimate moment of meeting my little guy for the first time.  I didn’t have this experience with Rosebud, due to health concerns, so I especially cherished this immediate meeting of our new baby.

My husband and I were in awe of our newborn, as all new parents are; during this first meeting, we switched to speaking English (prior to this point, we were conversing in German with the exception of some exchanges between my husband and me).  It was only natural to greet our son in his mother tongue!  During this time, my doctor delivered the placenta and massaged my uterus and my husband chose to cut the umbilical cord.  A little while later, the doctor examined our baby to make sure that our baby was as healthy as he appeared to be.  The slight pain I felt from the afterbirth contractions surprised me; with the previous birth of our daughter, I hadn’t noticed the afterbirth contractions.

After we had had a chance to bond as a family, the midwife then cleaned up Superdude, filled out a little card with his birth statistics (3580 grams – about 7.9 pounds; 52 centimeters long – 20.5 inches) and even made a footprint for us.  Aren’t baby feet irresistibly cute?  Superdude also received a t-shirt that said in Bavarian:  I bin a Tölzerl Kindl (I’m a Tölzer kid/baby).

Many of my friends, having seen this photo, have commented on how well I look after having given birth.  And it’s true, I felt amazing.  I was relieved that everything went so well and proud that I was able to give birth without needing pain medication. I also felt grateful that I was no longer pregnant.  Most of these feelings, of course, were due to that natural high a woman can feel after giving birth.  I do think that not having had any pain medication helped, however, and my recovery was quick following our baby’s birth.

Postpartum care…

My stay at the hospital was relatively uneventful.  Superdude developed jaundice so we stayed from his birth on Friday through the following Tuesday morning.  Fortunately, he recovered from the jaundice without too much difficulty.

Once I returned home, one of the midwives associated with the clinic made home visits.  This too is covered by the public health insurance with no extra cost to me.  My midwife visited me seven times within three weeks.  If I have any further questions or concerns, she will visit me again.  During her visits, the midwife wanted to be sure that Superdude was recovering well from the jaundice and that he was gaining weight.  She also ensured that I was emotionally and physically well.  Had I needed breastfeeding assistance, she would be there to ask questions and solve any breastfeeding problems as needed (I nursed my daughter successfully and consequently have had no issues nursing Superdude).  In addition to looking in on us, my midwife simply spent time with me and chatted with me about life in Bavaria.  I really enjoyed our little chats, which has been good practice for my German.  I could have really used this same level of postpartum care after Rosebud was born.  With her, I had a rough start and had I received home visits from a compassionate and understanding midwife, things may have gone much more smoothly.

My midwife also offers an hour-long Rückenbildungskurs, or what we might call a core-strengthening and postpartum posture-correcting class.  I will go once a week to this class once the postpartum period of six weeks is over.  Not only am I looking forward to the exercise and to seeing the midwife again, but also it will give me a chance to meet other women who have recently given birth.

Mom, Dad, and Superdude

Although I received excellent care with my first pregnancy, I’ve been impressed with the health care I’ve experienced all throughout my experience with Superdude.  Not all hospitals and clinics necessarily share the same philosophy as what I experienced.  By and large, though, I think that the German healthcare system tends to treat pregnancy more as a healthy and normal stage of life for a woman, rather than as an illness.

Had I developed preeclampsia, I would have absolutely received the same type of care as I did in the United States.  However, I know that the midwives would have done what they could to make the birthing event relatively normal. If there were any chance of us having another baby, I would want to give birth again at the clinic in Bad Tölz, because I had such a positive experience.  I wish that more women in the United States would get to experience something like this, because I think there would be far fewer interventions and complications.

The midwives make a huge difference.  They are there to let a woman experience birth the way she wants to experience it.  I never felt pressured to make any decisions and I always felt like the midwife and my doctor truly respected my wishes.  That is the way it should be, and it made for an amazing birth experience.

Thanks for sharing that birth experience with us, German Teacher!

Birthing Superdude, Part 1

Ladies and Gentlemen, please help the Moms welcome our guest poster, The German Teacher! She’s an American living in Germany with her hubby, 2.5 year old Rosebud, and newborn Superdude. We’re so excited that the German Teacher is sharing Superdude’s birth story with us.

It all started…

When I gave birth to my daughter Rosebud in 2008, it was a difficult labor in that I was severely ill with preeclampsia.  I needed to be induced and was given a variety of medicines to stabilize my blood pressure.  I was also gestational diabetic while pregnant with Rosebud.  Originally I wanted to try a natural birth without pain medication, so I hired a doula to assist while laboring.  Given all the health issues I was dealing with, I think it made a big difference to have a doula there even though I eventually did get an epidural. With assistance from my doula, my husband and the hospital nurses, I was able to deliver Rosebud vaginally.  After delivering Rosebud, it took me many weeks to fully recover, as I was still sick for quite awhile.

The German Teacher in labor with Superdude

In 2009, when Rosebud was eight months old, we moved to Germany for my husband’s job.  This gave me the new role of stay-at-home-mom; prior to that, I taught high school German.  When Rosebud was about a year old, we started talking about another baby, although we were nervous given the health issues I had with Rosebud.

My Pregnancy with Superdude…

Despite our concerns, we decided it was time to try again.  Throughout my pregnancy with our son Superdude, we worried about my health.  I know that my husband especially struggled with his concerns, because it had been traumatic for him to see me so sick with preeclampsia.  Fortunately, my German doctor was very responsive to my concerns and kept a close watch on me.  He said that preeclampsia, if it happens, most often occurs in a first pregnancy and that although I was at risk for developing it again, the odds were greatly reduced in a second pregnancy.  To our relief, my pregnancy with Superdude was normal.  I was mildly glucose intolerant but tested to keep my numbers in check and it wasn’t really an issue.  I did suffer from the normal pregnancy woes.  Morning sickness hit me especially hard with Superdude, and toward the end of this pregnancy, I was truly miserable.  I ached all over, suffered from heartburn and struggled with my toddler Rosebud.  To be perfectly frank, I really hate being pregnant (I’m happy I don’t ever have to do it again!).  But despite all this, I was thankful that everything was going well and that our baby in the womb appeared healthy and strong.

Here in Germany, we opted for the public insurance although we could have chosen private insurance.   My care on the public health plan was excellent.  I sometimes had long wait times at my doctor’s office, but that was more due to him being a sole practitioner.

If I wanted, I always had the option of seeing a Hebamme (pronounced “Hay-bama”) instead of the doctor – that’s the German term for a midwife.  A fair number of German women will mostly see a Hebamme (midwife) throughout their pregnancies, instead of an OB-GYN doctor.  Some women will see the doctor and the midwife equally as much, if they prefer.  Visits to either are fully covered by the public health insurance after the patient pays her quarterly co-pay of 10 Euro.  In my case, the doctor felt it best I see him because of my past history, although I did see a midwife a few times when my doctor was out of the office.

At the end of July, we toured the clinic where we would be giving birth, in the small city of Bad Tölz, which is about an hour south of Munich.  During the tour, we met several of the midwives and one of the on-call doctors who would attend to me when I gave birth.

Labor and Delivery…

The Wednesday before my due date, I started having irregular contractions early in the morning.  Since I wasn’t sure if it was real labor or not, I advised my husband to stay home, just in case.  On that day, I had an appointment at my doctor’s office for a CTG (Cardio-Toco-Graph, or what is called the Fetal Non-stress Test in the United States).  By the time I got to my doctor’s office, my contractions had waned.  My doctor examined me, and my cervix was still closed.  He said that my baby was so comfortable that he might stay put for several days or longer.  This was not the news I wanted to hear, as I was sore, uncomfortable and ready to meet my baby.  As my husband can attest, I was cranky, irritable and not much fun to be around!  The good news, however, was that our baby responded very well to the contractions I did have during the CTG.

Lovely gazebo in the clinic's rose garden

On Thursday afternoon, I was feeling even crabbier and physically miserable.  It was a gorgeous day, however, so I took my toddler Rosebud for a walk around our neighborhood.  She wanted me to carry her on the way home.  During our walk, especially as I carried my daughter, I could feel the baby sitting lower.

That evening, I felt even worse.  I was barely hungry at dinner, and yet when I checked my blood sugar levels an hour after eating, they were exceptionally high.  Perhaps that should have been a clue that something was beginning to happen.  While putting my daughter to bed, I noticed a few contractions but assumed they were Braxton-Hicks contractions again.  To relax, I took a warm bath before going to sleep and that helped.

Around 1:30 am on Friday morning, the 24th of September, I woke up because my legs felt oddly numb.  Soon after that, I started noticing contractions.  They felt different from the Braxton-Hicks contractions and they were getting regular, about three an hour.  I decided to get up and have a small snack; then I went back to sleep because I had a strong feeling this was the day and I knew I’d need as much rest as I could get.

At around 5:00 am, I was awake because my contractions were getting stronger and closer together.  I woke up my husband to tell him I thought we’d be going to the clinic to finally meet our baby.  He let me rest some more, although I didn’t sleep much because of my contractions.  We woke up our daughter around 7:00 am; I decided to take a shower that felt very relaxing in the early stages of labor.  By 8:30 am, I contacted my doctor’s office to let them know we were going to the clinic.  My husband loaded up our car with my hospital bag and my daughter’s bag.  Shortly after that, we dropped our daughter off at a friend’s house and then called the midwife at the clinic so they would know we were on our way.

We arrived around 9:15 am; my contractions were fairly strong and about five minutes apart.  The midwife examined me, and I was between three and four centimeters dilated.  She checked my vitals, which were fine; then she wanted to see how the baby was responding to the contractions.  After about twenty minutes of a CTG, the baby was doing very well.  She also asked me if I planned on getting an epidural to manage the pain.  I told her that I really wanted to try without an epidural.  The midwife then instructed us to go take a walk so that my contractions could be more productive and also to help me work through my labor pains.  To my surprise, she said we were free to leave the clinic and encouraged us to walk around the area near the clinic.

Mommy and Daddy are ready to go

I really wasn’t expecting that we would be able to leave the clinic while I was in labor.  Even better, it was a gorgeous morning so we were really able to enjoy our walk.  Although my contractions definitely hurt, I wasn’t in an unbearable amount of pain.  Walking made a huge difference, and being outside in the fresh air felt really good.  The midwife said that once my contractions felt considerably stronger, then I should head back to the clinic.

Near the clinic was a rose garden, so we spent a lot of time walking there.  We met another couple that was also walking to help labor progress.  They too were having a boy.  The mother said she really hoped the walking would work because they had arrived at the clinic much sooner than we had.

As my husband and I were walking around the rose garden, we cherished this time to ourselves.  It had actually been awhile since we had gone on a walk without our daughter, so it felt like a date!  Having this time for just us was a really lovely way to enjoy ourselves as a couple before we were going to become parents for the second time.

After our walk in the rose garden, we walked a little farther in the town of Bad Tölz, where I purchased a magazine at one of the newsstands.  We decided to turn back toward the clinic after that, as my contractions were getting noticeably stronger.  On our way back, we stopped for some ice cream.  I had hazelnut and chocolate chip; my husband had lemon and raspberry ice.  (Can you imagine being able to walk around and order ice cream while in labor in the United States?)

Once we were back at the clinic, at around noon, the midwife checked me again and I was now seven or eight centimeters dilated.  Clearly, all the walking worked!  Even though my contractions were much stronger, I still had little difficulty walking and breathing through them.  My midwife even said to me that she couldn’t really tell I was laboring because I looked so calm through the contractions.  She wanted to monitor the baby again to see how he was doing, and he was still responding well to the contractions.  She gave me a homeopathic medicine to help with the pain, and then asked me to walk around again as my water had not yet broken.  This time, however, she wanted me to stay very close to the labor and delivery area, because I was getting close to pushing time!

What a wonderful place to help labor progress

We walked for another 15 minutes and still my water did not break.  When we came back to the labor and delivery area, another midwife met us.  Two other laboring mothers had since arrived to give birth, which was why we had a new midwife.  I had met her before and really liked her, so I was pleased she was going to help me through the birthing process; she was fantastic all throughout the rest of my labor. The midwife asked me if I would like her to break my water for me, because I was fully dilated and effaced.  I agreed to this because I was more than ready for our baby to be born…

Join us tomorrow for Part 2!