Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Having a Baby in Germany

At the time of writing this, I'm 33 weeks pregnant with Baby #2. This time around is obviously different for several reasons: Primarily we're having this baby in Germany and secondarily we're not bombarding you with obnoxious weekly photos of my ever-growing belly bump making perhaps the most narcissistic and boring blog posts ever. (Who's idea was that last time, anyway? Surely not mine!) FYI - with Dylan we diligently took a baby bump photo each week.  With this baby we have taken exactly 0 baby bump photos.  When he's older maybe I can pass off a few of Dylan's as his and he won't know the difference.

But I've been asked by several people to write about the differences between prenatal care in the two countries, so I'll do my best although I have a pretty severe case of "baby brain" and have been pretty foggy-headed since around month #4 so keep that in mind.

At first I wasn't really impressed with the Frauenarzt (OBGYN) because the one I went to in Borken refused to speak to me in English.  Now, I know that being in a foreign country means speaking a foreign language and I don't ever presume that someone must to speak to me in English ... BUT when you're at the doctor who's about to do a really personal physical exam and you politely ask him in German if he speaks English and he replies (in perfect English, no less!) "Yes, but we're in Germany, so we speak German here," you're going to think this guy is a total jerk, right?  I mean, I'm there for a medical exam not a language lesson, so my thought was if he can make it any less awkward for me while I disrobe and lay on an exam table for him, then he should probably help me out and speak in English.  The other reason I didn't really like this guy is that for every question I had about how my reproductive system was functioning, he chalked it up to "Stress."  I began to feel that it was a cop-out answer for him not wanting to explain things to me in either language.  But, once I got pregnant and he started earning a lot more money from my insurance company, he got much friendlier and lo-and-behold the English came forth much easier for him.  About mid-way through the pregnancy we moved and I switched doctors.  I really like my new Frauenarzt and she has no problem speaking to me in fluent English, thank goodness.

There have been two big differences that I've noticed with the prenatal care. First, at every monthly (and now bi-weekly) doctor's appointment, they do an ultrasound.  It's really awesome to get to see the baby's growth each month and even though they don't always print out a picture (that costs extra, I think), it's very reassuring to wrap up the appointment with a private screening of what the little squirmer is doing in there.

The second big difference is that I always felt like in America the nurses really put the fear of God in you about potential yet extremely rare birth defects and complications and put a lot of pressure on you to do a bunch of extra expensive tests.  The nurses here definitely brought up all of the tests as an option, but I just didn't feel like the pressure to have the tests was the same.   And they certainly didn't use scare tactics that the US nurses did who would go on a big lecture about a rare birth defect and make me terribly afraid then slip in at the end "Now, this test isn't covered by your insurance and costs $400.  Should we go ahead and do it?"

I've also had to hire a Hebamme or "Midwife" for assistance after the baby is born.  This Hebamme will come to the house several times after the baby is born and help me out with any questions about feeding, weight gain, sleeping and other post-baby issues.  I meet with the Hebamme for the first time next week to go over all the details.  I, thankfully, was recommended one here in M√ľnster who speaks fluent English.

I also happened to take a tour of the hospital closest to our house where I plan to have the baby (unless he comes more than 4 weeks early, in which case I'll need to go to the larger University Hospital a little further away) and although I probably only understood about 15% of the hour-long presentation by the head doctor, I at least know which floor of the hospital to go to when the day arrives.  I also learned that most of the on-staff Hebammes and Krankenschwesters (midwives and nurses) speak some English, so that comes as quite a relief also.

Here's a "baby bump" photo.  Dylan and I were waiting for the bus to go to Kindergarten.