I was invited to be a guest contributor for the Gen X Moms Blog – what an honor! I have shared my birth story, which you can read by clicking the link: Birthing Superdude, Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!
edited to add the text I wrote for Gen X Moms:
Birthing Superdude, Part 1
Posted on October 25, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…