Her due date was January 22. We had waited for months for our baby to make his or her arrival (we did not find out the gender, we wanted to be surprised!). Each day was spent in quiet anticipation, with my patience getting shorter and shorter each day. I couldn't wait to meet this tiny human....and not be pregnant anymore. Her due date came and went. I tried everything to coax her out - raspberry leaf tea, bouncing on an exercise ball, listening daily to a special hypnosis track that was supposed to make the baby come out, I went for walks, climbed stairs, and ate more pineapple than I care to admit. None of it worked.
At 6 days overdue, at a routine fetal monitoring appointment, my doctor told me that I should make an appointment at the hospital I wanted to give birth at to discuss my situation. In Germany, they don't really like to let women go more than 7-10 days pass their due date. I had had my heart set on having a natural birth, free of interventions. I had dutifully prepared for months to make it happen, and it was a little tough to stomach (pun fully intended) the fact that I would likely have to schedule an induction. Unable to find an English language birth class here in Germany, I opted for a Hypnobabies home study after it came highly recommended by a number of friends. I ended up really liking the program and plan to use it for all my births. I was incredibly relaxed the entire time, and while I did feel pain (the program advocates that most women feel pressure and not pain), Hypnobabies gave me a way to adequately manage the pain. So, if you're reading this, and are pregnant, I would suggest at least looking into the program. It's not for everyone, but it worked really well for me.
Ok, back to the story. On Saturday, 7 days after my due date, I went to the hospital I had chosen to give birth in for fetal monitoring and to meet with a doctor. After an hour on the monitors and a quick ultrasound, the doctor explained that if I had not given birth spontaneously by Tuesday, I would have to be induced. I'm sure I could have pushed it off longer, but honestly, I was over being pregnant. The swelling, shortness of breath, debilitating pelvic pain, it was just too much and I was ready to meet our baby. We walked out of there with an appointment for 9AM the next day to start an induction. That night, we went home to enjoy our last night as just the two of us. We went out for Italian - and I ate dessert. I even came home and had a small glass of wine to relax. We watched TV, and settled in for the night. We headed to bed, fully expecting to get a restful nights sleep before our appointment the next morning. As I rolled my pregnant self into bed and got comfortable, my water broke. I looked at Aaron and said, "I think my water just broke. Now what?" I honestly had not expected my water to break before labor started. I called the hospital, told them I was Strep B positive, that my water had just broken, and asked when I should come in. Jetzt (now), was the midwife's reply. So I showered, got dressed, we grabbed the hospital bag, and headed to the car. On the way, I thought I had one contraction, but wasn't sure. For all those women who say you'll "just know" when you're in labor, they lied. I had no idea.
We got to the hospital and they asked if I was having contractions, I replied that I was not, so they strapped some fetal monitors to me and tried to check if my water had broken for sure. Two different tests came back negative. At this point, I looked at Aaron and said, "I did NOT wet the bed, I promise." By the time all the testing and exams were done, it was 3AM. They told me I would be staying over night, but sent Aaron home. Without fail, as soon as Aaron left, I started having contractions. I still wasn't sure I was having them, but after an hour or so, I began to realize that the pain I was having was coming regularly and lasting for a short period of time. I timed a few only to discover they were a minute long and 4 minutes apart. They continued for 3 hours or so, at which point I texted Aaron to let him know what was going on.
In Germany, birth is viewed as a normal, natural thing. They let you do pretty much anything during your labor and birth, within reason. I was hot (buildings in Germany are kept at, I swear, 90 degrees), and wanted to go outside. Until this point, the midwives had no idea that I was having regular contractions. When I told them I was, they immediately put me on a fetal monitor. During this time, I called Aaron to tell him to head to the hospital. An hour later, the contractions were stronger and closer together. The midwives moved me to a Kreissaal, or labor and delivery room. Unlike what I think most L&D rooms in the US are like, this one was super deluxe - it had a bed, stool, squat bars, and a tub. I actually spent most of my time laying on my side in bed, curled up with my maternity pillow, focusing on using my Hypnobabies tools to get through one contraction and then the next. Around 10AM, they checked my progress (but did not tell me how far along I was), after which I decided to get into the tub. The contractions were stronger, and I was starting to feel like I would be sick with each one. In retrospect, I realize now that I was going through transition. This was one of the most intense parts of my labor and it took all my concentration.
I had been in the tub for about an hour when I said to Aaron, I'm feeling pushy. His reply, "Ok, they said whenever you wanted to start pushing, you can." I was later told that when they checked my progress, I was already at 9 cm, much further along than I though. I remember looking at the clock when I started pushing. It was 11AM. I thought to myself, "I'm going to have this baby before lunch." Pushing took much more strength, and was much more exhausting, than I thought it would be. I hadn't planned on it, but I stayed in the tub. The water felt good and I wasn't interested in getting out. The midwives let me move in any way I felt I needed to, and even strung up fabric from the cieling that I could use to pull on. After an hour of pushing, I honeslty thought that I couldn't push any more. I was so tired from a sleepless night and so ready for our baby to be here. Aaron reassured me that I could do this and encouraged me to keep going. The midwives said reach down, you can feel her head. Twenty long minutes later, after a particularly strong push, I heard the midwife say, "Reach down and pick up your baby." She had to repeat it a couple of times because I didn't believe her. I then reached down, picked her up, and sat back. I was spent, relieved, and elated. She was so quiet, eyes wide open, and we just looked at each other. It was a minute or so when I realized that we didn't even know if she was a he or a she. I pulled her away from my chest and discovered we had had a baby girl - Evelyn Marie. Despite not finding out, from the very beginning, I always thought we were having a girl. Mother's intuition, perhaps?
We then spent the next few hours with uninterrupted skin to skin. There were some issues with getting the placenta out. They tried progressively more invasive methods to get it to detach - waiting, traction, ice packs, acupuncture, pitocin, an injection directly into the placenta before finally having to manually detach it (which was more painful than the actual giving birth part). Finally, after 3 or so hours, it was out and we were able to begin the rest and recovery process.
I have to say, giving birth in Germany was kind of amazing. I really like the fact that most births are midwife attended, but doctors are readily available when needed. The whole experience was very calm, and very holistic. I also have to give quite a bit of credit to Hypnobabies. One of the midwives attending my birth was amazed at how calm I stayed the entire time. In fact, Aaron later told me that there were quite a few midwives who were interested and have never seen a woman stay so calm while giving birth. It was a great way to prepare for Evelyn's birth and the birth rehearsal we did with a local instructor really helped Aaron to prepare and know how he could best support me. And he was great the entire time. He made sure that I had water, tried to get food in me, got cold cloths for my forehead, applied counter-pressure to my back during contractions, reminded me to breathe when I was pushing, ran interference with the midwives, and, most importantly encouraged and supported me the whole time. I may have been the one giving birth, but he was the one giving me the strength to do it.
And just because I can, here are some of her newborn pictures taken when she was 8 days old :) #proudmom These were taken by a local photographer Rebecca Dykema and we think she did a wonderful job.
We are excited, nervous, a little overwhelmed, but mostly, elated, to begin this new adventure together.