Happy New Year!

So, they say you should make New Year’s resolutions that are attainable. Break them down, make them reasonable. yada yada…

So my goal this year is to give birth. At 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I am confident that I can reach that goal. And won’t I feel accomplished when I do!

Gah. Seriously, I enjoyed a few extra days of just being O’s mom. Especially because he came down with a little virus and was all sick-y and needed mommy to take care of his fever. But I am ready for this baby to come on out already. I’ve had contractions for about a week now. They get real steady and then they’ll quit. And let’s not get started on the excruciating pain in my back from all the contractions. I’ve tried everything on my end: praying, eating pineapple, long walks, rich food, spicy food, cleaning the house, visualizing, seducing my husband, short walks, relaxing, eating more spicy food. So far all I have accomplished is heartburn….

But here in Germany it’s typical to make a woman wait it out. The lady near us at the clinic today was 9 days overdue, she was also late with her first 2 children as well. (Although, she looked very comfortable and relaxed, I must say, lacking that weary wild-eyed look I’m starting to permanently wear.) Pretty much doctors wait until there’s some sort of medical reason, or the woman goes crazy and demands and induction. But the doctor today offered a glimmer of hope. Maybe an induction tomorrow, if I want it.

I have never been so excited to drink castor oil in all my life y’all. We’ll see how it goes…

Granola, granola everywhere

So I would say that in comparison to US moms, Germany moms are much more “crunchy”. They breastfeed, they wear their babies in slings wrapped around them, etc. I’m not saying that one way is necessarily better than the other. But I do think that each family should work out a routine that best fits their personalities/lifestyle.

At the last birth preparation class, one of the mother’s turned to me and asked “How long did you breastfeed?” I proudly answered, “Nine months!” Her reply, “So short? I breastfed my son for almost 3 years.” Granted, this woman was not not actually German (Italian) but as you can see, most Europeans are generally a bit crunchier than Americans. Doesn’t matter, I’m still proud of my 9 month stint as personal milk supplier. In Germany, there are free breastfeeding classes and insurance covers for midwives and lactation consultants to help you. And there are plenty available to come to you when you need them. In the US, I had a phone number I could call with questions. And when a friend of mine got a pump, I was the one who helped her figure it out. My mother really couldn’t help me, because she breastfed one of her kids and only for a short stint. I now know that she probably didn’t produce enough milk because no one had ever really taught her what to do. Her own mother was told formula was actually better for babies.

So, I thought going into tonight’s informational meeting at the local hospital, that it’s Baby Friendly certification from the WHO would make it a really great place to give birth. Hmmm….

Granola Hospital Midwife: “We recommend a relaxing bath to relieve labor pains. Oh, but we only have one bathtub, so if you are in that room, and another woman wants to use it, then we will ask you to go to another room.”
Husband looks skeptically at the bathtub.
Me: “Well, that’s not so convenient…”

Granola Hospital Nurse: “We are Baby Friendly, that means we have no pacifiers. If you would like one for your child, you’ll have to bring your own from home.”
Husband looks slightly alarmed.
Me: “Great, one more thing to remember to take to and from the hospital.”

Granola Hospital Midwife: “We no longer have a nursery. It is best for the baby to be with the mother 24/7. Just as they were for the last nine months.”
Husband: “Aww, that’s nice.”
Me: “Ummm, what? The only sleep I got in the 6 weeks after O was born was on the one night the nurse convinced me to send him to the nursery for a few hours. They changed his diaper and rocked him and held out as long as they could before bringing him back to feed. How am I going to survive without my one night with 4 solid hours of sleep?”

 

Yeah, that last bit was the deciding factor. Unless the baby is crowning or my water comes gushing out like in the movies, then I’m going to squeeze my legs together and just deal with it for the 45 minute drive to the Women’s Clinic in the city. I’m not saying that if you want your baby with you 24/7, then you are bad/crazy/whatever. I’m just saying that I need that option. It helped me to be my best mom self to have one night when other people looked after O and I could let my body recover. And Lord knows, that child needs me to be my best mom self, because even at my best, I am far from perfect.

Things Change

So, most mothers of 2 or more kids will tell you that each kid is different. That each pregnancy is different. Well, I’m not here today to tell you otherwise. Some of it is just the natural progression from over-zealous first-time-around motherhood to been-there-done-that-who-cares-if-the-baby-eats-some-dog-food-it’s-not-toxic second child syndrome. Some of it is more situational.

For example, in my first pregnancy I laughed at the idea of sewing my own hospital gown. Why would you waste money on fabric that’s just going to get all stained with lord-only-knows? Of course this time around, I feel compelled to tackle this sewing project. Mostly because in my sterile visions of childbirth, there’s always a lot of medical interventions involved and I’m always in a hospital gown. In Germany, they tell you to just wear a comfy shirt, when you come in labor. Now, if I own a comfy shirt, chances are, I like to wear it. So why in the world would I want to trash it by giving birth in it? If the hospital won’t issue me a disinfected, hospital grade material gown, then I guess I will be making my own.

Another case in point: not choosing my hospital based on my doctor. So in Baton Rouge, I had the most wonderful OB/Gyn. His office was in the tower at Woman’s Hospital. So, of course, it was planned out that we would drive 45 minutes to his hospital so he could oversee everything and take care of me. In Germany, the doctors aren’t so much involved. In fact, legally, you have to have a midwife with you for the birth in a hospital, but the doctor is totally optional. You might not even actually see a doctor during your labor and delivery. I’m still planning to drive the 45 minutes to Tübingen, but not because my doctor will be there. In fact, I don’t even know if someone has to call him to tell him I’m in labor, maybe they just send him a letter all official and German like from the hospital. Something with a signature and a stamp. Germans like to stamp important things. The hospital in our town actually has a WHO “Baby Friendly Certification, but I don’t really want to go there… I’ve heard that they tend to not send critical patients to the specialty hospitals as soon as they should. My nursing education makes me all too aware of every rare and life-threatening thing that could happen. I don’t want to stroke out from an embolism and be a vegetable because the doctors here were too proud to admit they couldn’t handle it themselves. I don’t think my husband or my in-laws fully understand this. But I really don’t care. In the words of every 13 year old that’s ever been on Maury Povich, “It’s my body, I do what I want.”

Also situational: In the last pregnancy, it was a question of “when” and not “if” I wanted an epidural. In Tübingen, there’s a variety of choices for pain relief. I’m still leery of all of the breathing and relaxation techniques people recommend. But I’m keeping an open mind. Also up for grabs are laughing gas and some kind of opiate. I may turn this birth into my own little science experiment. Of course, I never actually felt contractions during my first labor, so I may be screaming for my “Rückenspritz!” before I make it through all of the different options. (Also- I am not a super human- I didn’t feel the contractions despite my Pitocin drip due to an overwhelming and excruciating backache that I’d had from about 32 weeks into the pregnancy. Kind of like you wouldn’t notice if you busted your lip falling if you also broke your arm at the same time.)

Now that I am officially on Maternity Leave (another situational difference. Yay, socialism!) I hope to update a bit more on these differences. Maybe on the next post I’ll go into detail of some of the all natural recommendations for inducing labor. 🙂 But really, it’s been interesting so far. And I’m learning to not be too neurotic. Maybe.

A post in which I actually DON’T complain about Germany

I complain about things here. A lot. I know.

But it really isn’t all bad news bears here in the land of beer and pretzels. I mean, this is the home of the Biergarten. Where in July you can enjoy a refreshing beverage of your choice outside on a bench with your friends and not sweat to death.

So, I’d like to take a moment to brag a bit on one of the lovelier things here in Germany: the affordability of healthcare in this country. I don’t often get too political here on my blog, but I do have to commend Germany’s government and the healthcare system in general. The healthcare system in the US was, and sadly, still is broken. I think it’s only going to get more broken until some sort of French Revolution style revolt occurs with CEOs of insurance firms being guillotined in Times Square. I won’t lie, or hide my views. I am much more liberal than most of my friends and family. That’s ok, we all get along. I don’t stand up on my soapbox all the time. But I would like to highlight some of the positive things in Germany, so here’s my story:

My first pregnancy, I was unmarried and on a tight budget- I had just quit my job to go to nursing school. Now you an cast all sorts of judgement on me for having an unplanned, out-of-wedlock baby. All I can say about that, is that I really don’t care what your opinion of it is. It was what it was. And like a lot of things in my life, I figured I’d just struggle through it and somehow make it work. My first doctor’s appointment I was given pamphlets and lots of information. I was also given a sheet that said about how much it was going to cost. It was in the thousands, and that was just the costs from my doctors clinic. That didn’t include the hospital costs or costs for an extra special circumstance type things. It said to contact my insurance company and to find out exactly what was covered and to set up a payment plan. It was like a warning, they didn’t want you to freak out at the last minute with a huge scary bill.

A week later, I got a letter from my insurance company informing me that my COBRA payments would be upwards of $500 a month. Yeah, that was going to happen. So I did something that was painful to my pride: I signed up for Medicaid. I justified it by telling myself that I had paid into the system in the years prior when I was working, but still I felt a bit sick in my stomach.I wasn’t alone, people in all sorts of health predicaments face this same struggle and anxiety. The person with the chronic illness who got laid off, couldn’t get coverage for treatment with their new insurance because of their “pre-existing condition”. Or people reaching “lifetime” limits because a for profit corporation put a price tag on a person’s worth. Or hospitals charging $10 for 1 Tylenol. I just think it’s all a bit ridiculous.

I was actually very lucky. Louisiana was set up that all pregnant women without insurance could get on Medicaid if they needed to. And I could do it online without anyone seeing or judging me. I just thank God that I had an excellent doctor who truly cared about me and didn’t care that I was (temporarily) on Medicaid. He made sure that I got great care and never skimped on anything.

Flash forward 4 years and a different continent. I now have very good private insurance. But we only have a private policy because Armin is a government employee. Since they pay their employees well, employees are expected to contribute out of pocket. Most people in Germany are on one of the public systems. Want to know what we all have in common? We don’t really worry about healthcare costs. Public insurance people pay a flat fee each time they go to the doctor. We get our bill and then pay the doctor ourselves. The we send everything to our insurance company and get reimbursed. So I have an idea of how much things cost.

A few weeks ago, I had a bit of bleeding one Saturday morning. I wasn’t worried, as I know it’s not uncommon in pregnancy, it wasn’t a lot, and I’d had it once or twice with the first pregnancy. But that night I was standing in the kitchen and felt a bit of pain low in my abdomen. I sat down for a bit, the pain stayed. I decided that it was probably nothing, but I should see a doctor, just in case. (Who does that in the US?) So I drove myself to the hospital, told them what was happening and was taken into an exam room. The doctor asked if I had taken anything for the pain. I said no, she left the room and returned with a packet of pills. She gave me 2 and a glass of water. She asked if I had these pills at home. I said no, I didn’t even know what they were. She gave me the rest of the packet and told me I could take them home. They were over-the-counter meds, but her giving me the extras meant I didn’t have to drive to the one open pharmacy that night. She did an ultrasound and assured me that all was well with the little one. She said I probably had the over-exerted myself and I was given directions to go home and rest.

The next week the bill came, and as I opened it Armin grumbled about how much it probably cost for a late night weekend visit to the ER. Who wants to guess how much the total was? Seriously, take a wild guess. ER visit + Ultrasound = 100 € They didn’t even charge for the pills she gave me. Now, if you aren’t familiar, 100 € is about $130. So yeah, the whole ER visit was less than 1 Ultrasound in the US.

 

I won’t say the ACA is great. I see that it has flaws and that it has actually caused more problems for some people. But I think the idea that people can access medical care when they need it and not stay up all night worrying how to pay for it is great. I have a lot of things to worry about- I have a child, an elderly dog, a marriage that requires the normal amount of work and care. But I don’t have to worry about my health or that of my family. We can afford it, and while the culture and customs may be different, I don’t fee that the medical care here is lacking in quality. My sincere hope is that the US can figure out a way to bring this peace of mind to its people.