My plan was to go to Berlin last weekend but a string of illnesses kept me away. It’s both sad because I really wanted to meet up with some amazing expat ladies, and also, I really wanted Dunkin’ Donuts. I was incredibly disappointed. But it, and this entire week, has taught me about the difficulties you can face outside of your home country, in a different language, with doctors and nurses that speak somewhat incoherent English, and all the confusion this can lead to. Now, the purpose of this post is not to go on a Germany bashing spree because they can’t speak English, wah wah, they’re German in Germany, this is to be expected…. the purpose is to give some insight into my experiences as a foreigner having a baby here in Germany.
In the past week, I’ve dealt with my primary care doctor, my OBGYN, the dentist, and an orthopedic doctor. My midwife and I aren’t super fantastic— but that could be because in American culture, especially the way I grew up, midwives were/are not really used. We think of it as a homeopathic alternative to modern medicine. They aren’t delivering your babies, and if they are, they’re alongside the doctor. Here, midwives are important— at least during and after birth. They deliver your baby, not your trusted OBGYN, and the only time you will see a doctor during birth is if something is going wrong. You better believe I’ll freak out if I see a doctor entering my delivery room.
My OBGYN thinks midwives are ridiculous, and my midwife thinks my OBGYN isn’t diligent enough. This doesn’t stress me out, it mostly makes me laugh. The unfortunate thing is that my due date is in the holiday season, so my midwife won’t make it, and her replacement is Russian with little to no English. So there is really no point in me getting close to my midwife and utilizing her more when she’s not that nice, she doesn’t help much, and she won’t be there for the big event. And also, the hospital sets up appointments with a midwife to come to your home every few days after the baby is born to check on you and baby, and help you with this new role in your life. That sounds awesome. I will need help with this stuff, so I greatly look forward to that.
So let’s start with this past week. I had a tooth infection caused by all the hormonal changes, which caused a sinus infection, which led to my asthma acting up, which resulted in little sleep for the past week. Meanwhile, my legs and hands are swollen (as one would expect in pregnancy), but one leg was worse than the other which led me to a google search. I then saw my regular doctor, who told me to see an orthopedic doctor, who checked my veins and found that I will need compression leggings. However, her English was so poor and her German was so fast, too fast despite me asking her to slow down, that she never told me exactly where and when I needed to get these leggings. So the next day, after having my legs wrapped mummy-style from toe to knee, I went to an orthopedic place only to find that I was supposed to go at another time. I broke down in tears.
After the constant infections and problems this week, I thought it would be a great idea to check on baby and see that she’s ok. So I scheduled an appointment at the OBGYN for later that night. I waddled home, tried to be positive and hours later went back to the office. I waited a good hour before he would see me, no problem, I had the newest Bon Appetit with me so I enjoyed the quiet. But once I was in his office, he began yelling at me. He is by far the nicest doctor I’ve ever had, but that day he was super stressed. He didn’t like that I made this appointment, that other patients are now waiting because of me, that I’m wasting his time. I tried not to break down into tears again, and said I could come back another day, my face flushed in anger and embarrassment. He said no, I’m just going to have to wait till everyone else left and get a full workup, including blood work and blood pressure testing.
Here’s another big difference from back home. At doctor’s offices here, the nurses are usually high school interns. That’s right. The person taking your blood, checking your blood pressure and weight, is about 16, give or take, years-old. Imagine how terrible that’d be back in America. So whenever I get my blood taken, I have to deal with an inexperienced and shaky teenage girl, who doesn’t “see” my veins, and then jabs me a few times before she realizes (each and every time) that it’s not about seeing, it’s about feeling. The process takes a lot out of me. Meanwhile, the past few weeks, the blood pressure cuff at the office that fits my arm is broken, and the small one is too small on me, and my wrists are swollen from carpal tunnel so the wrist measure doesn’t work either. These girls were so confused that in the end, none of any of the readings were even semi-accurate, but they all pointed to high blood pressure.
Another hour and a half later, and thankfully, The German at my side having gotten out of work late. The doctor came in, all smiles and kind again. But now that I’ve seen his dark side, I don’t feel quite so smitten with him. After going through all my results, and my blood is still boiling after the way he yelled at me, he tells me that it was really important that I made and stayed so late for this appointment because something was in fact off. And now I need to go back and be monitored every 3 days after taking medicine, and to be on as much bed rest as possible. But I would need that medicine that night. And it was then 9 pm. So we had to track down 1 of the city’s apothekes, or pharmacies, that in Germany close around 6 or 7 (and yes, we live in a major city) that has to be open at night. So if you need a certain medicine later at night, you’re screwed. Which is exactly what happened to us. We traveled to the only one open somewhat near us, and they didn’t have the medicine there. They called everywhere else, only to find they didn’t have it either. So I had to wait until the next day at 12 to get this medicine.
This week has found me scared, confused, and lonely. No one really tells you what to expect, especially my doctors, and I feel like if I don’t proactively try to stay on top of all of these problems, I’d slip through the cracks. I knew I needed this appointment, I could just feel that it was important to do and I’m doing all of this for her. So I will yell on the phone, chase down these doctors, and make the greatest effort possible so that she is in the best health possible. That’s the beginning of parenthood for me, and I don’t care how many times one of these doctors yell at me for taking some of their time, or how many times I have to ask questions that annoy them because I need clarification and they can be totally confusing and incoherent, I will do it, despite the negativity coming my way because I have to. Meanwhile, she still merrily kicks me and wiggles around in there. And that makes all of this craziness worth it.
Promise, next week’s post will be brighter!