Just in case you haven’t been told by me directly or picked it up on twitter or Facebook or email etc Nicole has just delivered a wonderful baby girl to us called Lily.
As I keep updating my status on Facebook or talking to people in the UK or elsewhere they are getting very confused by the German health system and about the experience we have had - which I can only say has been perfect so far! This post is to explain in a bit more detail (for those that have asked) exactly what we have experienced here.
Firstly I should point out that Saarburg hospital is a rural hospital in a town that has a population of about 6000 and serves many local villages in addition to Saarburg. I point this out because everything that we have experienced should not be taken for granted across all of Germany, some of what we have experienced is down to use using a rural hospital too.
Before the birth:
Nicole has (like all women in Germany) always visited a Gynaecologist or Women’s doctor since she was 15 for any “women’s issues”. This doctor exists purely for women as in addition to a normal doctor.
So when we found out Nicole was pregnant from a test kit we went straight to her Frauenarzt (Women’s doctor) who immediately gave her an ultrasound scan and at 6 weeks we got our first picture of Lily and could already hear her heart beating. Visits to the Frauenarzt continued every 2 weeks until we passed the 12 week milestone - each time we got an ultrasound scan. From week 12 to week 30 we went to the Frauenarzt every 4 weeks for a scan and from week 30 there was a visit every week for a CTG and every second week we wold get another scan. Our (mandatory) health insurance would only pay for 3 scans so we had to pay €100 to get all the rest of the scans, but this has been the only additional payment we have had to make.
The Frauenarzt was also the doctor in the delivery room who helped bring Lily into the world.
Nicole met our Midwife (Maria) at about week 22 when she attended a class on pregnancy exercises in a swimming pool. At this point we already knew she would be our midwife. Maria met us both at about week 33 and gave us a tour of the delivery room and other facilities and explained exactly how things would work. She gave us her home number and mobile number and told us to phone her when the waters broke and then pack our bag and come to the hospital.
Nicole also met our health visitor & breast feeding advisor (Doris) at about week 26 who gave the antenatal classes. Just like with Maria we already knew at this point Doris would be our breast feeding advisor.
The Frauenarzt, midwife and breast feeding advisor all work as a team and look after Nicole and Lily at different stages of the pregnancy, but are all in contact about how things are progressing.
Once the waters broke:
We were out celebrating Nicole’s mum’s 60th birthday when Nicole’s waters broke and we then phoned Maria who agreed to meet us at the hospital 40 minutes later. We travelled home packed a fairly light bag mostly clothes for Lily and Nicole for when they leave the hospital. The bag didn’t need much because the hospital told us they would provide everything during our stay.
When we got to the delivery area Lily and Nicole were immediately monitored by Maria who said that it would be a while yet and told us to walk around for an hour to try and kick things off. Once we were back from our walk and it was clear nothing was going to happen that night Maria sent us to bed. I should explain that in the delivery area there are two bedrooms one for the midwife and one for the parents. The parents room has a double bed so that we can sleep together and wait until something more starts to happen.
The delivery area has enough rooms to deal with 3 births at the same time, but there was no one else in there - in fact the last baby had been born 3 days before.
We got up at 5am and after another walk Nicole took a bath in the birthing pool to try and relax - still nothing.
After a while things started to kick off and the contractions started getting a bit bigger the Frauenarzt was called and consulted about what course of action to take with Nicole and she was put on some medication to increase the contractions. Eventually the pain was too much for Nicole and she had to have an epidural anaesthetic. This happened quite quickly (not quick enough for Nicole) and was done a team of two doctors and at this point the Frauenarzt had turned up. This was the only point I was asked to leave the delivery room.
Delivery happened quite quickly after the epidural and the Frauenarzt, and midwife worked almost without words. I got to cut the umbilical cord :D.
Once Lily had made her way out and Nicole had picked her up and laid her on her chest the doctor and midwife melted away and left us on our own together for about 90 minutes. Eventually Maria came back to help get Lily breast feeding.
After the birth:
Once Lily was born Nicole and Lily were moved to a care ward in a room of their own, and it was offered that I could stay with them for €25 a night. Nicole could have left the hospital 2 hours after the birth - but she was entitled to stay there for at least 7 days (more if the doctors decided).
We have so far stayed in the hospital 4 nights - but think we will stay at least one more.
In the care area we were one of 3 babies on the first night, the only baby on the 2nd and 3rd nights and are one of 2 babies tonight. We always have a sister around to help with everything and they have changed and washed the baby etc until we have been ready to take on these duties. Also we get 3 meals a day made for us which is work we would have to do if we were back at home. The hospital has also been a better place to receive our first visitors as we don’t have to worry much about keeping it tidy etc.
Every morning we get visited by first Maria, then our Frauenarzt and then Doris is here for the whole morning to help with breast feeding issues. Clothes, nappies, babywipes etc are all provided for the lengt of our stay and we really did need to bring nothing extra. They will even lend us a few things for a week or two after we are here.
All in all the experience has been fantastic - perfect even. I can’t imagine how anything could be improved. I have had to be out buying things etc during the days and doing a few other tasks, if I hadn’t been able to stay at the hospital I’d have been kicked out at 9pm and hardly seen as much of my daughter as I have been able to. The help we have been given in becoming parents and the fact we have been able to slowly get used to it is something I can’t imagine having any other way. I have always been fascinated when friends have had a child and asked them what it was like the moment they got home with their child and closed the front door. This moment for me was when you really had to work out what to do with the baby next and it was now all up to you. For us I no longer fear closing the door behind us when we get home I feel quite prepared for the first weeks of us looking after Lily.