Before I can tell Mackenzy’s birth story, I have to give a little background information and explain the prenatal visits to the German Klinikum in Weiden. So here goes…
We moved from Colorado to Germany with Carsyn, who was 17 months at the time, and our two dogs when I was 33 weeks pregnant with Mackenzy. We stayed in temporary lodging on the military base for 10 days and moved into our government leased house in a small town outside of Grafenwoehr. At the time we only had our luggage, unaccompanied baggage, our dogs, and government loaner furniture.
I quickly made an appointment to see a doctor on post in order to get a referral to the Weiden klinikum about 20 minutes away. Even though I was clearly pregnant with my big ole baby belly, the base health clinic made me provide a urine sample to make sure I was truly pregnant. At this point, I was indeed still very pregnant and I was given the referral to see the OB-GYN doctor on the economy.
Jake, Carsyn, and I went to my first prenatal appointment at the Weiden Klinikum and initially had a hard time finding parking and locating the correct office. We did eventually attend the two hour appointment which was definitely different from my experience in the States. According to Jake, the examination chair looked like something from either a torture chamber or medieval times. The other major difference was that when the doctor came in, he just stood right in front of me, and asked me to get undressed from the waist down. But I must have given him a look, because he quickly reached into the cupboard and pulled out a towel for me to cover myself. I know after giving birth to a child all modesty goes out the window, I had not prepared myself for that moment. However, we proceeded with the appointment and my pregnancy continued to be healthy.
I continued going to my final prenatal appointments weekly at the Weiden Klinikum, where I would also deliver Mackenzy. At every appointment I had to provide a urine sample and the OB-GYN performed an ultrasound. This was also not typical of my experience in the States. During the final weeks of my pregnancy, Jake and I also had an appointment with the anesthesiologist to discuss the epidural. This was another significant difference than my experience in the States. In Germany, we had to have this appointment prior to labor when I could clearly understand the process and the risks. Jake and I had a private meeting with the anesthesiologist in which we learned about the process. risks, and I signed consent for the epidural.
As the number of days to Mackenzy’s due date quickly dwindled, we were very eager and anxious to receive our household goods (HHG) so we could unpack and prepare for Mackenzy. We were lucky our HHG shipment arrived and passed through customs in less than two months. We were also very lucky that my mom had arrived in Germany and would be staying with us for the summer. She would be helping us unpack, watching Carsyn while I was giving birth to Mackenzy, and helping us adjust to being a family of four.
Our HHG were delivered four days before my due date…and I guess I spent too much time on my feet and did too much unpacking that day because my water broke around midnight that evening. The trickle of my water breaking had woken me up in the middle of the night. Jake and I decided to wait at home for a little bit in order to get some rest before heading to the hospital. But early the next morning, I began having strong contractions about five minutes apart. We decided to head to the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital, we found the parking garage for the first time. However, we were having trouble reading and understanding the signs in order to get to the correct place in the hospital. We ended up outside in a garden area. We asked a patient, who was smoking a cigarette, for directions. He nicely pointed us in the right direction. Once inside the hospital, we went directly to the labor and delivery ward of the Klinikum. They checked Mackenzy’s heart rate and monitored my contractions. Then, we met with a doctor to confirm that my water had broken and to discuss next steps. While my water had broken, my contractions had unfortunately vanished. They checked us into a room in the maternity ward where I would share a room with another pregnant mama. This was also different from my experience in the States. In the States, once I was checked into the hospital I stayed in the labor and delivery ward in a private room. In Germany, I stayed in a shared room on the maternity ward through my labor and until I was truly ready to deliver.
The day dragged on and on for Jake and me. We had brunch in the café downstairs and walked around the hospital. One moment my contractions would be intense, but when I would walk over to labor and delivery to have them monitored, they would disappear. Eventually, my contractions stopped altogether and Jake went home for the night since he was not allowed to stay at the hospital…since I was sharing a room with another patient.
Before Jake left for the night, we made a plan that he would come back to the hospital at a certain time (when visiting hours started) the next morning. However, I called him very, very early the next morning because my contractions had become extremely intense and much closer together. I told him to come back earlier than we had initially planned.
A couple hours later, my contractions were so painful and intense, that I could barely walk to labor and delivery to have them monitored. Keep in mind that the last time I was in labor, I had been induced and was connected to a fetal heart rate monitor the entire time. I finally made it into the waiting area inside the labor and delivery wing. (Jake was on his way to the hospital at this point!) It felt like I was sitting in the waiting area forever until a midwife came to check on me. (Apparently there was only one doctor working and someone was giving birth!) When the midwife came to check on me, I could barely speak to explain how strong and painful my contractions were. She said, “Okay, come with me.” and walked down the hallway. She didn’t offer to help me at all. Needless to say, I was in so much pain that I physically could not stand up from the chair. Nor could I walk down the hallway. After what seemed like an eternity (probably about 5 minutes), another midwife came back looking for me and helped me into the delivery room.
Once I was situated in the room, the midwife checked to see how dilated I was. I kept asking for an epidural for the pain, but unfortunately the midwife told me I was too dilated (8 cm) to receive one! (In this hospital the anesthesiologists are not on-call or easily accessible.) Moments later, Jake finally entered the room. I was in excruciating pain and I was feeling an intense pressure (down there) that I had never felt before. Jake was caught off guard this time around. He told me that he really needed to use the bathroom….I’m guessing partly from being nervous from hearing me scream and squeezing his arm because I was in so much pain. I told him that he didn’t have time to go to the restroom and that he needed to grab the camera from my room on the maternity ward. Jake quickly retrieved the camera and came back to the deliver room where it continued to be just the midwife and me. At this point, I was also saying, “Help me!” from the intense pressure I was feeling in my pelvis! Jake just looked at the midwife and me.
I was waiting for the midwife to tell me when to push, like they did when I delivered Carsyn in the States. Finally, I told her I was feeling an intense amount of pressure and asked her if she would tell me to push (remember in the States they monitored my contractions and told me when to push). The midwife told me that if I felt like I needed to push then I should. She also had me laying on my side. I started pushing and was still in an immense amount of pain (think ring of fire). I asked the midwife, “How long do you think it will take for me to push Mackenzy out if I try really hard?” She told me she thought it would be pretty quick. (I was comparing this to the hour I pushed with Carsyn!) I was determined to make this a quick delivery. In ten very quick minutes, Mackenzy had made her grand entrance into this beautiful world! Jake was able to cut the umbilical cord again. And I had also torn again while delivery Mackenzy but it was not as bad this time.
Once the doctor checked on Mackenzy and me shortly after giving birth, Mackenzy and I transitioned back to the shared room in the maternity ward. Mackenzy and I stayed in the hospital a few days. In German hospitals it’s typical for them to keep you in the hospital 3 days after giving birth vaginally. However, I asked them to discharge us from the hospital after two days. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I gave birth to Mackenzy during the summer and the hospital did not have air conditioning….and neither did our German house….but I was ready to be back in my own environment.
During our stay in the hospital, Jake, Carsyn, and YoYo came to visit Mackenzy and me. While it was not quite the birth experience I was planning, it was not awful. I had heard many “horror” stories about giving birth in German hospitals, so I had educated myself on the differences in the health care systems and childbirth experiences. At the same time, I had also prepared for my birth experience not being what I wanted it to be. I felt like the language difference was not a huge barrier, but I had expected the hospital staff to provide more instruction than they did. Overall, I would say it was not a negative experience but it was just different. We were extremely thankful to have a healthy little girl! As a celebratory gift, we received the German newspaper from the day Mackenzy was born and a small bottle of champagne.