Pregnancy in Germany

In labour, my face
tells it all.

Moving from Ghana to Germany has been one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made. As we all know, it is not easy to just uproot your life from one country to a totally different country with a different culture. After being in Germany for a short time, I started feeling lonely and wanted to go back to Ghana. Little did I know there was a great surprise in stock for me. Three months after moving here,I missed my period and bought a pregnancy test to check if I was pregnant and it was positive. We told my in-laws who were happy for us and my mother in-law recommended her Obstetrician/gynaecologist as my ”Frauen arzt” (women’s doctor). Here when you are pregnant, you are required to register with one of the many gynaecologists, to visit monthly for check ups.

My mother in-law called and got an appointment for me. On the appointment day, we went to the reception to register. They took my health insurance card and gave us a form to fill (My full name and other health information about me). After that, I was asked to give a urine sample and my blood pressure and weight were taken. We were then told to wait in the waiting room where there were other women, both old and young, some with their husbands also waiting to see the doctor.

After about 45 minutes, it was my turn and the nurse called Frau Lansah (Mrs. Lansah, well because am still using my surname, it is a long story) . I responded and walked towards her and she directed me to an office where I met the doctor. She smiled and welcomed us and we told her why we had come. She checked the urine results and confirmed. She then asked us to come to the ultrasound room to check the development and how many weeks.

In there, she asked me to disrobe completely for the check up. There is a small room with a curtain separating it from the main ultrasound room , like a small changing room in a small-clothes’ shop. This was the first time I had to disrobe completely for a check up. I was nervous and really uncomfortable. The only thing that helped was that she is an older woman and not a man. Still it was very difficult because in other countries, they give you a gown to wear for the check up. Here, nope, you don’t get anything. You are completely naked. Then I was asked to lie on the bed. She first did a breast check for lumps and after that, inserted a small probe of the ultrasound machine to check the development of my baby. It was really invasive for me, but not painful. I used to think they just used the big probe on your abdomen to do the check but it turns out, when you’re a few weeks pregnant,the baby is still small and can be seen much clearly this way. I had to sort of transport myself elsewhere until the images on the computer were shown to me. I was beyond happy. I was so happy that I forgot how uncomfortable I felt lying there. My husband was also so happy.

She printed the pictures and was done in about 10 minutes. I got dressed and we went back to her office where we talked more, basically about my family history and also the about the pregnancy journey. She then gave me some vitamins and folic acid and also some books about pregnancy and babies. They were in German however, so I couldn’t really use them as I didn’t understand German at the time. She asked us to get our next appointment a month later and we went to the reception for the appointment. We drove back home and told my in-laws how it went and they were so excited.

About two weeks after my first visit, I started throwing and having what is called morning sickness. I wonder why they call it morning sickness though because it certainly is not just in the morning. I couldn’t keep food down at all and I started losing weight. I waited it out and at my second appointment, after the invasive ultrasound check up, I told the doctor and she gave some anti-vomit tablets safe during pregnancy. They were a life saver but come with some side effects. When I took them, I didn’t throw up anymore but I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to get through anything. I just ate and slept, couldn’t do anything else but at least, I wasn’t losing weight anymore.

Every month I visited, they took my weight, my blood pressure,my urine sample and did an ultrasound check up. From the third month onwards, she didn’t insert the probe. It was just a pelvic check with the big probe and it was less invasive except for having to take off my clothes without being given any gown to cover up.During my fifth month visit, in addition to my check up routine, I was given a bottle of some concentrated sugar drink to take and give a urine sample after an hour, so they could test for gestational diabetes. I was so thankful when they didn’t call me back three days later, In Germany, when you do a test and they don’t call you back after a couple of days, it means it was negative You are only called back if something is wrong. I still think they should always call you back regardless because when they don’t I always wonder if something was wrong and they just forgot. Anyway, I was so relieved that everything was fine. When I found out I was pregnant I changed my lifestyle. It is not that I was eating too unhealthy before, but I started paying more attention to my food and only bought bio or organic fruits, nuts, foods, whatever, it had to be organic. I also ate more of a balanced diet than before and took walks to keep fit. I didn’t want to take any chances. So I wasn’t so surprised when my tests were all in order.

At the sixth month check up, she told me to look for a mid wife so I can start attending birth classes and also getting extra help with information. In Germany, though the hospitals have midwives, most midwives have their own private practice and normally, pregnant women are asked to get one before they give birth. Midwives here teach what to expect during the different stages of pregnancy and also what to expect during delivery and after. With them, you can ask more detailed questions about the process and they will be there for you. You can even call them sometimes when you have questions and it is not yet time for your appointment with them.

My doctor gave me a list of midwives in my town and surroundings and I contacted one and got an appointment. We wanted one that spoke some English as I couldn’t speak German yet and we were lucky. The one we contacted spoke English and even offered to do my birth classes separate from the other class because it was done entirely in German. She was so professional and old school. I am so grateful to her for being brutally honest about how painful giving birth is. She was so candid and it somehow made me prepare my mind for the inevitable pain especially when you do not want to take any pain medication during the birth. She was also so encouraging and when I told her I wanted to give birth without pain medication, she was so supportive and encouraging.

During the last trimester. I was asked to come for my prenatal check ups every two weeks. This time another test was added. After the usual weight and blood pressure measurement and the giving of a urine sample, I was taken to a different room where the probe of a fetal doppler is strapped on my abdomen or stomach,depending on how the baby is lying, so they can check the heart rate as well as any contractions. It is absolutely painless except for the 30 minutes you have to lie mostly still, preferably on your back. It gets really tiring and sometimes uncomfortable because by that time, you are heavily pregnant and can’t breathe too well on your back. After that, the doctor then checked for my baby’s development and position as it was getting close to the due date. She realised my baby was in the breach position so she started discussing the option of caesarean section in case my baby didn’t change her position before my due date.

At my next appointment with my midwife, in the eighth month, she also checked the position and told me the same thing. I asked her if there was anything I could do to help position the baby properly and she suggested being more active. So the next weeks, I went out for walks more often. She also used a dummy uterus to explain the child-birth process and taught me some breathing exercises to help with the pain if am able to have a natural birth.

During my last appointment with my doctor, which was my due date(the 40th week, a Thursday), I was not yet having contractions so the doctor suggested that if my baby didn’t come over the weekend, I be induced the following week. When we got home I read about people’s experiences with being induced and they were all horrible. I got so scared and decided to try to start labour naturally. I read pineapple could help so I cut one up and ate and also cooked some local vegetables my mother had sent me in the beginning of my pregnancy and ate. I then played music and started dancing. That evening, I started feeling like going to the toilet and when I did, there was nothing. Then I started having small cramps. At this point, I didn’t think it was the beginning of labour because it wasn’t so bad.

The next day the pain kept increasing and I was still not sure if I was having contractions or not. I stayed home, thinking perhaps it was because of the food I ate. That evening, around 10 pm, it got worse so I asked my husband to drive me to the hospital in our town( about 5 minutes drive from where we lived) to see what was wrong. In my second trimester, I had already joined one of the tours organised by the hospital for pregnant women, so we knew exactly where the maternity ward was.

We got there, told them how I was feeling and the midwife on duty checked with a doppler machine to see if it was contractions. She realised indeed it was and went ahead to check for dilation, the part I hate most about all the checks, so uncomfortable. I was a few centimeters dilated. She then gave me an intravenous in case I wanted pain medication later, because I told her in the beginning that I didn’t want any. After that, she asked us to keep walking up and down the stairs to help move things along. We did this for about an hour amid getting checked for both dilation and the babies heart rate. At a point, the pain was unbearable and I couldn’t walk anymore and when she checked, she said it was time.

Checking for contractions.

 

I was asked to lie down on the delivery bed and the doctor on duty was called. I was in so much pain I asked them for pain medication but they refused, saying it was already time to start pushing. They told me to start pushing and I did. I kept pushing on and off for a while but the baby wasn’t coming and they were beginning to get worried. They spoke in a low tone to each other and my husband later told me they were discussing taking me for an emergency caesarean section. They came back, told me to push again and when I did, the baby started coming. It however got stuck and they gave me an episiotomy which wasn’t even that painful. I was in too much pain that it seemed like a pinch. Then I pushed some more and she was out. I suddenly felt this breeze sweep through my whole body and I also felt so light. She was crying and when they gave her to me, she stopped. When I held her in my arms, it was magical, it felt like heaven gates had opened and I was with God. The most amazing feeling I had ever had. So much peace and joy in my heart. The placenta came out and as they stitched me, I felt nothing. I was probably too happy to feel any pain plus they had injected a local anesthesia.

After cleaning us up, they wheeled me to a room with two beds and my daughter was so tired, she couldn’t even breastfeed. She slept in her bed and I couldn’t sleep. I was still so happy and excited, I couldn’t close my eyes to sleep. Another reason I couldn’t sleep was because I had this weird feeling that if I fell sleep, someone would still my baby. So weird. The next day, when they checked us up and weighed my daughter, she had lost some weight because she hadn’t breastfed much the night so I had to pump milk and use a syringe to feed her while she slept. The midwives were so amazing. They helped me with everything including feeding her, bathing her and even changing her diapers, basically anything I needed. In all it was one of the greatest experiences in my life and am grateful for all the support I had during this journey.

 

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