edited to add the text I wrote for Gen X Moms:
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.
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.
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.
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.