Our Expat Birth Story

Well, it’s time to say “Welcome Back” to ourselves here at Intentionally International!  We have been very silent for the better part of a year, but not because we couldn’t think of anything to write about.  No, we have been very busy keeping the newest member of our team happy, healthy, and alive!  9 May 2020 marks 9 months since the day our lives changed forever. We spent the better part of a year getting ready for this new reality, and yet it seems that our lives changed overnight, with the snap of a finger, and we really had no idea what we were in for despite the time that we spent preparing. What a paradox! I’d like to illustrate the beauty of the 9th of August 2019 for you, with enough details to paint the picture of the beauty of Mr. T’s birth, but without oversharing.  If, however, any details about our birth story are not anything that you’d like to read, you may want to skip this post.

The Maul parents were visiting us, hoping that they could be here for the birth of our son. We were really hoping that they would be here for the birth of our son too, considering that it was their 40th wedding anniversary trip! What a great way to celebrate 40 years married, with the birth of another grandchild (our first child). However, it was clear that our dear son was going to come on his own terms, in his own time.  By the 9th of August, he was already 5 days past his due date and the Grandparents were anticipating leaving on the 15th of August, desperately hoping to meet him before that date. Each evening we would wonder when the baby would come. Finally, the Maul parents decided that they would go on a little mini overnight trip to celebrate their anniversary. We recommended they go to Leipzig as there’s so much to see and do there, and it’s a pretty easy train from Dresden.  So off they went in the morning for their 40th Anniversary Mini Side Trip.  They planned to see many Bach sights and go to an organ concert.

The Maul Parents, trying to convince Mr. T to make an appearance before their travel back to the States.

I was also really hoping the baby would come sooner rather than later!  I even contemplated going to a staff happy hour at my workplace that afternoon just since nothing was actually going on. At about 13:00 I started to feel a bit crampy, but just the kind of crampy that I had experienced on and off during the pregnancy, and nothing too painful.  So I laid down on the couch with my huge pregnant belly, and thought about how pregnant I was, how sleepy I was, and how hot it was outside. By 14:20 I realised that this wasn’t just feeling a bit crampy, I was actually beginning to experience the first stages of labour. As we are planners, we went according to our “first stage of labour plan” we had made: fill the bathtub, get in, use my HypnoBirthing techniques to breathe through the first stage of the labour. 

Around 15:20 we realised that my contractions were already between 30 seconds to a minute long with only 5 minutes between contractions. Like dutiful students, we called the hospital and explained about our contractions, but the hospital wanted to know if it was our first child. First children often take an average of 7 hours’ labour and since it is our first child, the hospital advised us to wait another hour and call back. So, we proceeded to continue with the HypnoBirthing breathing exercises and I continued to appreciate the soothing nature of the warm bath. By 4 p.m. however, Drew realised that we would need to get going pretty fast, so I got out of the bathtub– quite reluctantly I would add– and instead used the hot water bottle on my back while Drew gathered our pre-packed bags and looked up tram times.

The tram, you ask? Why on earth would we make the choice to use the tram?! Well, quite simply, it seemed like the easiest way to get to the hospital. Our apartment at the time was located right next to a stop on the 8 line, but at that time the 8 wasn’t running, and an alternate tram 41 was running instead, which would take us directly to the hospital in just 20 minutes. When making our plan, we decided that the tram would actually be the quickest way to get to the hospital. That, and we can tell our son that we used the “Prolechariot” to aid in bringing him into this world.

I kept practicing my Hypnobirthing breathing and visualizations on the tram.  Yes, as you can imagine, the tram ride while in labour was not a super amazing experience for me.  But I kept my head down, breathed, and pretty much ignored my fellow riders.  The biggest hurdle of our transportation plan was how to get from the tram to the sidewalk, as the tram stop by Diakonnisankrankenhaus is in the street, forcing the riders to walk from the road to the sidewalk.  It took a lot of strength and probably the grace of God for me to stand up, walk through the tram doors, step down off of the tram, and get across the road in the middle of a contraction!  Once across the road, we had about 400 meters to walk to the hospital entrance.  I had to stop many times on this walk.  At this point, Drew remembers me saying things like, “I can’t do it,” (meaning I felt that I couldn’t walk any farther, not that I couldn’t have the baby) and “I have to poop!”  (The colleague who told me that delivering a baby is like trying to poop out a coconut was not far off, which became very apparent to me.)  Once we got into the ER entrance, I made a beeline for the public restrooms and I told Drew to get me a wheelchair.  The women’s restroom was occupied, so I used the men’s restroom, which unfortunately super confused Drew as he wheeled the wheelchair to try and get me to the maternity ward.  Apparently he also had a bit of a difficult time convincing them to give him a wheelchair at the ER desk.  Once on the elevator, we made an accidental stop on the 2nd floor but finally redeemed ourselves, made it to the 3rd floor, and checked in at the midwives’ station.  

I was taken to the same room I had been in just 5 days earlier on my due date, and just 3 days earlier for monitoring since the baby hadn’t come on time.  They hooked me up to an EKG machine to check Baby’s heartbeat and movement.  The bonus round of labour means that they also checked to see how dilated I was: 5cm!  After the midwife left the room, Drew and I did a congratulatory high five since one of the biggest mistakes newbies make is to come to the hospital too early, only to have to wait long amounts of time.  If Rachel had been at this hospital, she would have been so envious of me. 😉  Unfortunately, the urge to push was overwhelming by this stage.  So, I was super uncomfortable!  After only 20 minutes in the initial triage room, the midwife came to take us to a more comfortable room to begin the delivery.  This room was right off of the midwife station, and not actually a birthing room.  Because the labour was progressing so fast, there wasn’t enough time to get to a birthing room, or even give me an IV.  The midwife who ended up being assigned to our case, Pia, led me to a restroom for one final chance to relieve myself before the birth.  Once in the more comfortable room, I was checked one more time and then given the green light to push.  I was elated about this; it felt physically impossible to not push at this point.  The only people who were present in the room at this time were Drew and Pia.  

Now, if you’ve made it through this much of my story, and you’ve had the personal experience of childbirth, then you will know that I seriously missed my window for any kind of painkiller to actually be effective.  Yes, that’s right.  No epidural.  No nothing.  In my loose birth plan, I didn’t really want an epidural, but because the labor progressed so quickly, there wasn’t actually time for it anyway.  Drew was by my side for the entire process.  I am not going to lie and say that it wasn’t painful!  But, just when I felt like I couldn’t take any more, both Pia and Drew told me they could see Baby’s hair, and that it was long and dark.  Talk about motivation to keep going!  When Pia could tell that Baby was almost ready, she called the doctor, who simply came and stood watch over the delivery.  This is the protocol in Germany:  the midwives are main characters here!  The doctor left soon after Baby made his first appearance on the world stage and Pia continued to rock the postnatal care scene.  Baby was born on Friday, 9 August 2019 at 18:22.  We had been at the hospital for an hour and a half, and I pushed for 20 minutes.

Here I am with Baby, seconds after he made his first appearance.

Hearing Baby’s cry for the first time was so amazing, and comforting, to know that he was alive quite frankly.  Since Diakonissenkrankenhaus is a Baby Friendly Hospital, Baby was given to me for skin-to-skin immediately, and our first breastfeed was facilitated soon after.  The first few postnatal hours were a flurry of activity, which included being stitched up by a physician as I had unfortunately torn in the process.  Luckily, I definitely had general anesthetic for that!  Drew made sure that he communicated to his parents that their grandson was arriving, so the Maul parents arrived in our room around 21:30, straight from Leipzig, and they were so pleased to meet their grandson.  

When we had arrived at the hospital, we had inquired about using a Family Room for our hospital stay, so that Drew and I could stay together with Baby for the first few nights.  Well, since Dresden is apparently the German Baby Boom city, we were certainly not the only people having babies on that day with that thought in mind.  So, we prepared ourselves for the possibility of me having to stay in the hospital with Baby overnight, without Drew.  The midwives, however, were monitoring my and Baby’s recovery progress, and they presented us with an amazing alternative: we could actually just all go home.  That’s right, folks.  The birth of my baby was an outpatient event!  We were really excited about this choice, so Drew was given a long waiver form to sign, and the hospital midwives called our midwife who would be visiting us for the next 6 months at home, to ensure that she could check up on us the very next day.

So, by the time the Maul parents arrived, we had already decided that we were all going home that night!  There was a hustle of logistical plans about how to get four adults and one baby home–remember, we don’t own a car.  Drew and his father ended up going to pick up a car from the car sharing service we subscribed to; Drew reserved the car using an app on his phone.  They then swung by our apartment and Drew’s dad stayed there to cook us all dinner while Drew picked up the carseat.  Meanwhile, at the hospital, Drew’s mom got lots of baby bonding time while I had a shower!  Our dear Baby was given a lot of attention by the midwives; at least 5 stopped by to see him and wish us well before we left the ward.  It felt like they were good fairies bestowing health and happiness upon us as one midwife in training carried the carseat with our new family member while Drew wheeled me to the car.  She even taught us the proper way to put the carseat in the car!  After a quick drive to our home, we shared a multi-generational dinner at 00:30 to celebrate our dear, sweet Baby, cooked by his granddaddy!  

If you read our philosophy about Baby on the internet, then you know we are choosing to keep his image and name private.  But, being the A Team, we have decided that his internet alias will be Mr. T, and that’s how we’ll refer to him on this site. 

We were so humbled and empowered by the amazing care at Diakonissenkrankenhaus and would like to say a heartfelt Danke to all of the midwives who were with us to welcome Mr. T into this world!

One thought on “Our Expat Birth Story

  1. What a wonderful day and experience! I, too, used hypnobirthing techniques for all three of my wee ones, and loved it! Congratulations on making it through the first nine months. That first year is anything but easy, but it sure is a time to be cherished. Sending love from PA!

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