SINCE I have not yet had the baby, I still have time to write a bit about my experience being pregnant in Germany. I have been fortunate enough to have had excellent care and a very smooth and easy pregnancy. There were a few interesting differences though between my care in the U.S. and Germany, which I wanted to write about. I can only speak of course about my specific experience here in Stuttgart– so I cannot say if this is representative of everywhere else in Germany.
Here is my doctor:
The first difference is that the doctor you see throughout your pregnancy is not who will deliver your baby at the hospital. She has been responsible for all of my prenatal care, but then once I am admitted to the hospital, I have no idea who will be actually delivering the baby. I must say I was a bit disappointed by this, since I appreciated that in the U.S. you build a relationship with your doctor and they see you from the absolute start to finish, at least in most experiences if possible.
I like the feeling that when the doctor delivers the baby, they are very familiar with the medical history and know the family personally instead of a doctor just walking into the delivery room at the last minute and overseeing or delivering a baby from someone they hadn’t met or had just met that day. I know it is not a fair perception, but at the outset it seems like it reduces a very personal experience of birth and delivery from the culmination of a long pregnancy to just a routine procedure. That being said, I of course trust that I will have a positive experience with whatever doctor I see at the hospital, whether it be a familiar face or not.
When I met my doctor, I brought two large manilla folders with my medical records. I had tried to go through and mark what I felt the most pertinent parts of my history were that I wanted to discuss with her, however I didn’t realize that new patients didn’t usually come in with that kind of paperwork. She had asked for my “Mutterpass,” and I just looked at her blankly. I understood what the words meant, but still had no idea what she was talking about.
Turns out, the “Mutterpass” is a really wonderful and efficient thing they do here, wherein all the important information relating to each checkup, test and measurement is recorded in a small little book which easily fits in a purse or diaper bag which the patient retains and brings to each appointment. This is something which is standard throughout Germany and was started in 1961. All of the info is of course recorded as well at the doctors office, in case the book is lost or forgotten. Of course I am sure no German woman would ever lose her Mutterpass or forget to bring it to the appointment, and I was quite stressed that I would lose it and there were a couple times where I was on the way to catch the bus and realized I didn’t have my Mutterpass and had to turn around.
They advised me to have it with me at all times though, for in case of emergency if something were to happen during the pregnancy it would be easy for the medical personell to access that important information. It also is just convenient the way it is laid out, and I like being able to have everything neatly organized in one place instead of a big file of lab reports and exam reports where it takes a while to find what you are looking for. I think it is a very efficient system and wish they did it this way in the U.S. I have seen other women have cute little cases and covers for theirs, so it is quite a “thing” here.
Unfortunately, I had to tell Frau Binder that I did not have a Mutterpass, so she hefted my large folders and just said that she would read through them that evening. I am sure that wasn’t that fun to do.
If someone had asked me to picture a modern German doctor’s office, I may have imagined something like this:
This is the front desk of the Praxis, and everything in the office looks as streamlined and modern- very European!
Not all of the doctor’s offices I have been in look this way- this office is actually located downtown in a building with other medical offices, much like in America. The other offices I have been in are part of residential homes –Fiona’s pediatrician for example, which is in our neighborhood- and is a residential apartment converted into a doctor’s office. This can sometimes be a problem, like when my sister came to visit and we needed to go to the doctor and accidentally walked into some random lady’s house. In our defense, she had the door open at the time and it was hard to tell the difference, but she was not happy about it!
A couple other incidental differences- medical staff always wear all white, not scrubs. Also, the exam takes place in the doctor’s actual office, not in an exam room. At first that seemed strange, like you are invading their private space but once I got used to it, I actually like it.
You walk into the office and sit at the desk across from the doctor who goes over everything with you and then makes notes right there in your pass or on the computer.
The only downside to this set up is the two times Fiona ran smack into the corner of the swanky desk. She was ok though!
If you could look to the left of this picture at the other side of the room, there is a screen for undressing and an exam chair. What they DON’T have in the doctor’s office? Gowns. That was probably the biggest surprise for me. Enough said. I’m used to that now too I suppose, but I would have to say that gowns during exams are a tally on the the side in favor of the U.S. medical system. Not like I’m keeping score though!
Also, every time I had an ultrasound done- which was at most appointments actually- the actual doctor performed it, not a technician, which was nice. That way we could discuss everything in real time, instead of like at some practices where you go to a separate office for the ultrasound and the technician doesn’t (is not allowed to?) discuss things with you, and then sends the report to your doctor and then you don’t get results or information until the next appointment or over the phone.
Most appointments were conducted in German, which I hopefully navigated fairly well through- however Dr. Binder did speak English which was really nice for me in the case I needed clarification about something or when Rijen was present at the appointment. The only little embarrassing language problem was when the doctor pointed out our SONS “Hodensack,” which was a word I wasn’t familiar with (I was thinking “Dudelsack”– what, our baby has a pair of bagpipes…?) and there was a bit of an awkward back and forth before I realized what part of the male anatomy she was referring to…and then she wanted to know how to say it in English and at first the only thing coming to mind was the slang term and not the medical term. At least at the end we were both very confident about the correct assessment of our baby’s gender!
The other faux pas I am sure I made many times before realizing it was in the waiting room. When a patient comes into the waiting room, they greet everyone already waiting in there with a “Hallo or the very common greeting here in Stuttgart Grüß Gott.” Then when they leave the waiting room they say goodbye as well. I of course am used to the American way of being friendly but not addressing anyone personally. Anyway, a very small difference, but I like the custom, it adds to a friendly atmosphere in the room.
Fiona got very used to going to the doctor with me and developed her own little routines in there. She was often concerned but extremely interested when blood had to be drawn, for example or other parts of the check-up. In the last two months or so, she has wanted to “play doctor” at home. It is very cute because she lets me know this by coming up to me and saying “Hello Doctor!” (even though she is the doctor). Then she likes to look at my tummy, especially the bellybutton and talk about “Baby Bruder”. I need to get her a little play doctor set, I think she would like that.
When it came time to decide which hospital to deliver at, we had three choices. I did not go with this hospital, but I really liked this picture from their website:
I’m not exactly sure what is going on here, but it seems like the mom is happy about it! The woman pictured is a Hebamme, which is the German version of Midwife. Many German women have their own Hebamme, who meets with them before delivery to coach and help them prepare and then are their to do the bulk if not all of the delivery at birth. This probably alleviates some of issues relating to not knowing your delivery doctor which I mentioned earlier in the post. They also care for the mother and the baby for however long is needed after the birth with home visits. I will not be “bringing” my own Hebamme, however all hospitals do have a Hebamme staff there who look after the women the same way.
My interaction with the Hebamme at the hospital so far have been positive, but a bit strange at times. I have been in to get a CTG where the uterine contractions and fetal heartbeat are measured. You are strapped up for 30 minutes or more during the process.
The last two times my baby has happened to fall asleep during the process and the Hebammes/Hebammen (not sure of the plural form there?) have tried lots of different ways to wake the baby up. First I had to drink a lot of water. Ok. Then she came in and as she was adjusting the straps, I saw this implement on a wooden stick she had brought in. I was looking at that, and had NO idea what it was or would be used for. Turned out it was basically a bike bell latched onto a wooden stick. She took it and started ringing the bell VERY loudly in a circular direction around my tummy. Poor baby. Rijen and I had to try and keep from laughing. I really couldn’t help from laughing though when another time she brought in a cotton ball with a lemon scent and she had me smell it. For some reason, the culmination of all of those things just made me laugh really hard. (Which Rijen and I thought was what woke the baby up in the end). Of course it all makes sense I suppose, it just seemed very “medicine man” for some reason the things they were doing.
Here is the hospital where I will be delivering at:
We went on a tour and I really hope I will be delivering in this room:
The huge light above changes different colors and that delivery chair is circular. Kind of seems like more of a room for a dance party than for birthing, but I like it!
Not as cool of a bed, but I like the chair! What about those hanging ropes, eh?
All of the rooms have these snazzy tubs though….which I am very excited about.
I guess more information about the birthing set-up is best left to after I experience it myself some hand…..someday…..!!!
By the way, if you are wondering why I am bothering to do this kind of post is that I am now almost a week overdue and had nothing else planned for this morning. If the baby doesn’t come on its own today, then I have an appointment tomorrow morning to start an induction process at the hospital.
In other news, Aleida and Joel had been traveling in Europe and decided to skip the France leg of their trip and arrive here 2 days early! So Fiona has been really excited to have more attention and it makes me feel so much better to have them both here before to help out and for (hopefully if the baby does come on Sunday) a few days afterwards.
As you can see from the pictures, Fiona loves having Aleida here. This is what I walked in on this morning:
The last picture for this post is one I had to put on here because while I have been pregnant, Fiona loves it when I wear my “owl shirt.” This is not a maternity shirt, but works as one, especially since we have been able to see the owl “grow” over the past few months. I worry that Fiona will miss my big tummy, which has been almost like a special new friend for her…but I hope a little brother will more than make up for it.
Looking less likely that the baby will come on 5/21, so I guess now we are setting our sights on tomorrow!