Carnival Traditions in Germany, or Why Bavarians Eat Donuts After the Christmas Season

The German Teacher is here to tell you!

In the United States, if someone mentions either Mardi Gras or Carnival, we’re likely to think of the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, Louisiana, or we might think of the carnival festivities in Brazil.  Carnival is celebrated here in Germany and throughout Europe.  In the Rhineland region of Germany, it’s called Karneval.  Particularly famous is the Cologne Carnival, and most small towns in the region have their own festivities.

Here in Bavaria and Swabia, it’s more commonly called Fasching or Fastnacht.  To be honest, I don’t know as much about the customs here in southern German as much as I do about the customs in the Rhine region, but just like Mardi Gras and Carnival, it has to do with preparing for the Lenten season.

Donuts, Bavarian Style

Carnival celebrations start in early November but cease during Advent and the Christmas season.   Then on Three Kings Day, January 6th and the twelfth day of Christmas, carnival celebrations begin again.

Throughout the rest of the winter, there are various parties and celebrations, culminating on the last Tuesday before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  In southern regions of Germany, Mardi Gras is called Faschingsdienstag, which means the Tuesday before fasting.  Other special days include Weiberfastnacht, a day for women to be in power, and Rosenmontag.  On Weiberfastnacht, among other things, women get to cut men’s ties, symbolic of the women taking charge (men are advised to wear an old, unfashionable necktie).  Rosenmontag is the most important parade day of the Cologne carnival.

One of my friends wryly commented to me that carnival is just an excuse for the young people to go out and party.  As with most holidays here, the festivities are rooted in religious traditions, but likely originate from earlier customs.

When I was an exchange student near Cologne, Karneval was taken very seriously – nearly everybody in my little town participated, and we were given a few days off from school.  Our town had its own parade, and I had the chance to dress up and take part.  I distinctly remember getting to waltz in the streets with pretty much everyone in our group, even though I had never danced the waltz in my life!  We also tossed candy to all the kids who lined up to watch the parade.

Nutella-filled Donut

But what about the donuts?  Why do Bavarians eat donuts before Lent begins?

The answer to this question goes back to the religious meaning behind Mardi Gras and Lent.  The Tuesday before Lent is about getting ready to fast (which is why it is called Fasching or Fastnacht in Bavaria) and to give up meat and fatty foods, for example.  The word carnival itself has to do with “carne” or “meat”, so the meaning is similar; Mardi Gras means “fat Tuesday” in French, also referring to fasting during Lent.  Basically, the period leading up to Mardi Gras or Faschingsdienstag is an excuse to revel in excesses before giving them up.  And that’s where the donuts come in.

In other words, a perfect food to enjoy before going on your Lenten fast would be donuts!  Donuts are, after all, cooked in hot oil.  In this part of Germany, they’re called Krapfen.  Yes, go ahead and giggle – the word sounds funny in English. I must confess, whenever I go to our bakery and look at the donuts and ask for Krapfen, the eight-year-old inside me says, “She said Krapfen, tee hee.”  Being non-natives living in Bavaria, I consider it our duty to try everything.  Krapfen are no exception.

How about a glazed donut filled with… Nutella?

If you think this tastes as good as it looks, you would be right.  Rosebud completely agreed, and this particular donut rapidly disappeared.

Rosebud enjoys her Nutella Krapfen

Traveling Internationally with Kids

by The German Teacher

I love both of the travel posts Gen X Moms Blog has posted before:  Flying With a Baby and Flying With a Toddler and always read them before we travel, to refresh my memory on the excellent advice given there.

 Since we travel internationally with Rosebud and Superdude, primarily to the United States from Germany, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on traveling internationally with children.  While it may seem daunting to fly and travel internationally with children, particularly for intercontinental trips, it can be done! 

 An international trip can be a great learning experience for a child, and offers them the opportunity think differently about what they know and the world around them.  I was 11 when I first traveled abroad with my parents, to the United Kingdom.  That experience was very enriching for my younger sister and me.  We still talk about our memories from that vacation.

 Apart from traveling to the United States from Germany with our daughter Rosebud, we have also taken her to London, Venice, and eastern France.  Already I have seen how much these experiences have interested her, and we are eager to share more travel experiences with her and her baby brother.

 The first step in planning an international trip is to reread both the travel posts I listed above.  As many times as we’ve traveled back and forth across the pond with Rosebud (six completed intercontinental trips now), I always find myself needing to refresh my memory on the excellent suggestions for flying with young children.  The second step is to research your destination and carefully plan, so that you have a good variety of activities tailored to your family’s age range and interests.

 Our international travel often involves a visit to family and friends, so it is a little different from traveling for pleasure with children, but the advice I wish to share applies to both situations.

 1.  If you are US citizens and are travelling internationally, all children will need a passport, no matter how young they are.  Keep in mind that when applying for a US passport for a minor (under 16), both parents need to be present when signing the passport application for the child.  A child’s passport needs to be renewed every five years.  If your child cannot sign for himself, the parent needs to first print the child’s full name, then sign next to the child’s name and write down relationship with that child (i.e., mother, father, guardian).

 Make a copy or two of your passport photo and signature page, and keep the copies in a separate location from the passports themselves.  That way, if a passport goes missing, you still have the passport number, which can help in acquiring a new one.  You might even consider leaving a copy of your passport with a relative.  In your passport, there is a page to record contact information, too.  Definitely write down this information, including your home address, but do it in pencil so that you can change the information later on.

 US citizens can also register their trip using STEP, or Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html.  In case there is some sort of travel emergency that arises during your travel, registering with STEP alerts the nearest embassy or consulate.  Then, the consulate or embassy can offer you and your family assistance, should it be needed.  If a passport were to go missing while you are abroad, registering with STEP can make it easier to acquire a new passport.

 2.  Plan ahead and be sure to include plenty of down time for you and your children during your stay abroad.  This is especially important if you are dealing with jetlag.  To help your children and yourself adjust to a time zone change more quickly, stick to their regular schedule when possible.  In other words, have meals and naptimes occur at roughly the same time as at home if possible.

 When you arrive at your destination, try to spend some time outside to play or take a walk.  I find getting a little fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways to overcome tiredness after flying.  And, of course, little ones need an opportunity to stretch their legs after a long flight and day of travel. 

 Make sure you and your children keep hydrated and eat lighter foods while traveling, too.  To keep well hydrated, you might want to carry a refillable water bottle to fill in the airport, once you get past security. 

 If you can have a rest day with few activities planned on your first day, this is especially beneficial for kids.  This way, the kids can settle in, relax and feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. 

 3.  Especially in European cities, child-friendly accommodations may not be available or easy to locate.  One alternative to consider, if you’ll be staying in one location for a time, is a vacation apartment or home.  Vacation apartments often include a kitchenette, which can help you save money and time.  Vacation apartments can be less costly than a hotel, depending on the length of your stay and the city.  

 Another option is to stay in hostel.  Many youth hostels offer family rooms.  If you want to keep down your travel costs, a hostel is usually less expensive than a hotel.  Hostels may not offer the same level of amenities as a hotel and you may not have the same level of privacy that a hotel offers, but on the other hand, hostels are a great way to meet other travelers.  This can be especially nice for children, particularly older ones.

 I hope that these tips I’ve shared are helpful and, if you’ve ever considered traveling abroad with your kids, will help you realize it is doable and well worth it.  Safe and happy travels, everyone!

Christmas in Germany

The German Teacher shares the lovely season of Christmas in Germany!

Christmas market, Marienplatz, Munich

Living on the edge of the Bavarian Alps as we do, one of my favorite times of year here is the Christmas season.  Between the holiday decorations, Christmas markets and the impressive backdrop of snow-covered Alps, this time of year is magical.

Saint Nicholas

We call him Santa Claus, but in Germany he’s called Sankt Nikolaus, or Saint Nicholas.  In Germany, Saint Nicholas brings gifts to children on December 6th, his feast day.

This year, I thought Rosebud was old enough to learn about Saint Nicholas. On the evening of December 5th, Rosebud and I sat at our kitchen table, where I sang her a song about Saint Nicholas called “Lasst uns froh und munter sein” (or “Let us be happy and cheerful”).  The song is about how children put out a plate on Saint Nicholas Eve, and then while the children sleep, Nicholas puts treats in the plate for the children to find the next morning.  We sang the song several times (“Mommy, sing it again?”), and then I helped Rosebud put a plate on our kitchen table for Saint Nicholas.  The next morning, her eyes were wide with amazement when she discovered her plate was full, with a few sweets and many clementines.

Christmas market, Salzburg, Austria

Originally, children in Germany would put out a boot or a stocking, just like the tradition of having Christmas stockings for Santa to fill.  Usually Saint Nicholas leaves gifts of oranges or clementines, nuts, chocolates, Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and maybe some other small gifts.  A friend of mine in the Netherlands told me that Saint Nicholas is very important there; he’s called Sinter Klaas and children get most of their gifts on Saint Nicholas day.

At some of the Christmas markets in Germany, Saint Nicholas appears in costume.  He asks the children if they have been good and usually gives them a clementine or apple.  Unlike our jolly Saint Nick in North America, Saint Nicholas is slender rather than plump, and dressed like a bishop in red and gold.

O Tannenbaum – Oh Christmas Tree

The custom of bringing an evergreen into your home and decorating it is an old one; the tree symbolized the return of spring. Traditionally, Germans decorate their tree with candles and bows; also common are sweets, glass balls, straw stars and wooden ornaments and figures.  Most people have lights in the shape of candles for their tree, but some families still put actual candles on their tree.  When I was an exchange student in Köln (Cologne), my family had real candles for their tree.  We lit the candles and admired the tree for about twenty minutes, but then extinguished the candles and plugged in the string of lights for the rest of the time.  The candle-lit tree was beautiful, though.  I’m not brave enough to do it myself, but the candle-lit tree is something I’ll always remember.

A typical Christmas market stall, Oberammergau

Some families put up their tree on Christmas Eve and then take it down on January 6th, which is called Three Kingsday.  In the ballet The Nutcracker, the parents of Clara put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  The children don’t get to see the tree until the parents finish decorating it, which is another tradition that some families have.

Adventskranz – Advent Wreath

Most families have an advent wreath in their home, even if they aren’t necessarily religious.  It’s thought that the Advent wreath originated before Christianity spread throughout this part Europe.  In the Germanic and Scandinavian countries, a large wheel was decorated with four candles.  The four candles represented the four seasons, and the wheel represented the earth.  The candles were lit in the hopes that the wheel would turn back toward the sun.

Today, the candles are lit for each Advent Sunday and instead of a wheel, a circle is usually fashioned out of pine boughs.  Last year, one of the students I tutor in English was telling me how he and his friend always collect pine boughs to make into wreaths to sell at their local Christmas Market.  The hand-made wreaths I’ve seen here are decorated with ribbons, pinecones, dried oranges, whole spices and other seasonal items.  The wreaths make for a beautiful table decoration and help to bring a little light into one’s home during the dark December days.

Carousel, Christmas market, Oberammergau

Christkindlmarkt/Weihnachtsmarkt – Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets, which are outdoor street markets, are probably my favorite tradition here.  Especially in southern Germany where we live, the markets are called the “Christkindlmarkt” but in other parts of Germany the markets are called “Weihnachtsmarkt”.  When the festive Christmas markets open on the first weekend of Advent, I feel like finally it is time to get ready for the holidays.

The markets are generally held in town squares or pedestrian zones, and wooden stalls are set up to display handmade crafts, foods, ornaments, jewelry and other items.  It wouldn’t be a Christmas market without sausages or bratwurst, gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds) and Glühwein (mulled hot wine) or Kinderpunsch (spiced warm fruit punch).

Larger cities like Munich have multiple Christmas markets, and even special themed ones.  This year, with baby Superdude in the stroller and Rosebud who likes to walk, we have gone to the smaller markets in our region.  Rosebud in particular has loved going to the Christmas markets.  She gets excited over the lights and decorations, the outdoor music and even all the people.

Even though the weather can be very cold and snowy, somehow we don’t mind when we are walking around the Christmas markets.  A mug of Glühwein or Kinderpunsch helps keep the cold away.  My children are lucky to experience the Christmas traditions here.  As they grow older, we will all have fond memories celebrating Christmas in Germany.

More lovely Christmas in Germany pictures!

A stand offering candied almonds, Bad Heilbrunn

Rosebud enjoys kettle corn, Oberammergau

Rosebud holds out her mug of Kinderpunsch, Munich

Listening to festive music performed by a local band, Oberammergau

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!