E Arrives

Baby #2 has arrived! Ok most of you know this because it has been over a month but hey time flies when you are having fun. Some of you are probably wondering how giving birth went….German style!

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My first birth experience was a little traumatic. This time around, I was looking forward to having everything a little more organized and hopefully a lot more calm. We had a set date and we knew it was going to be another c-section so that takes out some of the guessing. However, giving birth in Germany is a bit different compared to the US so lets dive in.

First, I talked about this before but we had to pay everything BEFORE the birth due to our private insurance. We had to pay the hospital’s chief physician (even though he wasn’t going to be doing the procedure), the hospital itself and the anesthesiologist. Here is where it gets shady. I had to pay the anesthesiologist in CASH the day before the scheduled surgery. On the positive side, you get to meet the doctor the day before and discuss everything. This gave me the opportunity to explain the complications I had last time so that we could hopefully avoid those issues with this birth. During this meeting I also found out that blood is apparently VERY expensive (this is probably true everywhere but no one tells the patient). The doctor made a point to explain to me that they would give me blood if I needed it but it would be an absolute final option due to the price. That makes you feel good right before a big surgery. Ha!

Day of the surgery, we showed up early and walked up to labor and delivery. The operating room is actually on the unit and is set up just for c-section procedures. Everything started on time and went well. Well…better than last time. I was able to be awake for E’s birth and she got to do some skin to skin with me right after birth. That was a win for me and was all I wanted. There were some complications and they did end up putting me under (more anesthesia) to complete the procedure but I wasn’t intubated or anything so again I think that is a win.

After some time in the recovery room, they then moved us to our room on the mother baby unit. It was about noon and I was starving since I didn’t eat since dinner the night before. They finally bring in lunch and it was this:

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Yeah that is boiled potatoes and eggs. I am not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs so potatoes it was for lunch. Luckily I was warned about the food and had brought some snacks.

Speaking of food, it was interesting to adapt to the traditional German food during a time when you just want comfort food. For breakfast and dinner, it is common to have bread, deli meats and cheese. There is usually fruit and yogurt available in the morning and in the evening there is something similar to potato salad. Everything is cold. Lunch is the warm meal of the day and you were able to order what you would like. Breakfast and dinner was available buffet style and your lunch was left on a tray with your name on it down the hallway in a “dining room”. The nurses strongly pushed for everyone to be up and walking as much as possible after birth and I think this food set up was used to force people to get moving. On the day of surgery, the nurses did bring me all of my meals. I was up and walking that night so the next day no one brought me my breakfast. Nothing was said to me it was just assumed that since I had been up and walking in my room that I would then walk to the dining room. Don’t you worry I figured it out quick. No one can keep me from food!

I am up, walking, and finding my food all within 24hrs of having major abdominal surgery, which means PAIN! Our cultural training coach had warned me about pain control in Germany with regards to childbirth. Her exact words were “you must be in pain to be a good mother”. This is the straight truth. The hospital only offered Ibuprofen (seriously Advil) for pain control. In the US after my first surgery, I had an on-Q pump (pain pump that offers local anesthetic to the surgical site) for 48 hours, which basically made the area numb. I also had Tylenol with codeine and stronger Ibuprofen (stronger than regular dose). Back to Germany, Ibuprofen only and they gave me a stronger dose of Ibuprofen for only the first 2 days. Then they only offered the regular dose (you know how the bottle of Advil says take 2 pills every few hours). Not cool Germany. Not cool!

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(Worth the pain!)

Oh and they give you all of your pills for the day at once (at least at this hospital). I got a little pill box that was labeled breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening. They would fill it up at night for the next day and you were in charge of remembering to take everything. I would typically see a nurse 2 times a day (at shift change) when they were doing their rounds. The rest of the time I was cared for by certified midwives who would check on the baby and I throughout the day and answer the call bell. They would take the vitals and do the everyday stuff.

I also had a special guest come and visit me during my stay: a physical therapist! The day after my surgery a nice physical therapist came to provide me instruction on how to get in and out of bed after abdominal surgery and to help me walk around. I was already up and sitting in a chair when he arrived and I had been walking around (to scavenge for food) so I got discharged pretty quickly. Apparently, every person who has a c-section is provided physical therapy. You know I loved that!

Popular topic: How long did you stay in the hospital? With our first kiddo, we were discharged from the hospital at the 72 hour mark which is how long you are required to stay by law (and how long your insurance will pay for it unless there are special circumstances). Here in Germany, we gave birth on Thursday morning and discharged Monday afternoon by my request. The nurses wanted me to stay until Thursday because most women who have c-sections stay 7-10 days. In Germany, the birth is billed as a single procedure. So it doesn’t matter if you stay 3 days or 10 days the bill is the same to your insurance and there is no pressure to get the patient out the door. This allows mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, who need more time to recover, or just need more support before they take on the mom role full time to stay in the hospital longer. Mom is happy and baby is happy. This was actually really nice. There is no pressure to get out of the hospital and everything seems less stressful. Everyone gets to follow the timeline that works for them.

Overall, we were pleased with our experience. The skill and knowledge of the staff in Germany was on par with their counterparts in the US. The system here is set up to be more supportive of mother and baby and allow more time for recovery. I am glad, however, that this was not our first child or our first c-section experience. The cultural differences and the communication issues would have been more overwhelming/upsetting if we had no idea what we were doing (like we were with the first kiddo). We came home with a happy and healthy baby girl and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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