Having a Baby in Germany Part 2

So….. I was in the hospital for a month suffering from a pregnancy induced disease that caused me to have quite an inordinate amount of pain while awaiting an early birth of Baby’O. If I were in America, I’m not sure if any insurance would have covered a preventative month-long stint in the hospital, so I’m really fortunate I was in Germany going through this. I stayed at 2 separate hospitals, one for 3 weeks and another for just 1, and I moved only because one is closer to home. The experiences were quite the same; incredibly frustrating, painful, lacking privacy, and at times, very scary. But in the end I delivered a beautiful baby girl, 7 weeks early, but healthy and flourishing in the NICU Storch_quernonetheless. That is the biggest and best reward I could have ever hoped for- and since I’m still suffering the residual effects of the disease (which the docs say last another 4-6 weeks after birth), I can finally share some of this stuff with all of you.

I went to the baby doctor over a month ago, with concerns. You may remember that post- he wasn’t so nice and in the end said I did absolutely the right thing by being determined to see him. Well fast forward a week later, and he was being a bit evasive with me. I started to show some symptoms, and he told me to check myself into this hospital (the farthest away from home, which I found has nothing to do with this hospital being better than the other and everything to do with politics but whatever) for 3-4 days. I get to this hospital, and I’m immediately checked, poked, and examined intensively. They still tell me it should only be 3-4 days at the hospital. I now have an IV sticking out of my arm, which no one really explained why. Very few doctors, nurses, head doctors at this hospital speak English, so I was really grateful the G-Man came along and did everything for me. We were told I’d be lucky if I could continue this pregnancy another week, and that no, I won’t be able to go home until I have this baby. I have ultrasounds, CTGs, you name it, and no one really told me anything. I was confused and worried. More tests ensue, and I’m being told not to walk, but instead have to be pushed around this hospital to see other doctors in a wheelchair. I was a bit….humiliated. I grew up with a disabled mother, but she would never let you treat her like she was disabled. She was Superwoman. And I could walk. But nevertheless, I was pushed around to the doctor, waited in a wheelchair alone for a long while, and after an examination (which I never was told the results of), no one came to

What my room looked like, only there were two beds
What my room looked like, only there were two beds

push me back. So I had to stand up and push this ancient, non-self pushing, wheelchair back with my own file through the hospital. This happened twice. I got some funny stares and no one ever said sorry for forgetting me on the other side of the hospital. I got over it. Hospitals are busy places after all.

The Nurses. I got checked on by nurses every 2 hours or so at both hospitals. In my experience, there is always 1 in 4 nurses that is a complete jerkface. We have 2 examples from hospital 1: nicknamed Orphan Black (she looked just like Helena on Orphan Black AND she was Ukrainian!) and Morgen (she would wake you up by entering your room, turning on all the lights– yes at 4 am and 6 am, saying “Morgen!!” and then yelling/telling you to do something in fast German despite everyone telling her I didn’t understand, while taking your blood pressure). Orphan Black was not a nice lady; she 1. didn’t know how to measure blood pressure properly, so she kept putting a small cuff on me that would bust off my slightly larger than average arms, and despite other nurses and the doctor telling her to use a bigger cuff, she refused. She would always comment on how big I was, and her logic for using equipment on me that didn’t fit was- but it has to work because it’s the biggest I have. One morning in front of my bed, she and the doctor had a real argument where she was yelling, rolling her eyes and he pretty much said- if you can’t do this correctly, then all you should do is hand out their meal trays. Yikes. After that, a larger cuff was “magically” found and used on me there out. But that didn’t stop her from hating and blaming me for her strife.

Nurse Morgen didn’t like how I did things, nor did she accept that I couldn’t understand a mile-a-minute German being shouted at me. She had a very Dolores Umbridgey thing about her; always smiling, humming, and pretend listening to you, but you are just business to her. Even the G-Man saw it first hand, and he was shocked. If I was Klinik Hallerwiese Nürnberg, Baum Kappler Architektentaking a nice stroll around the hospital, she would track me down to check my blood pressure, although the doctor told her to only check when I was in my room and resting. She had her own schedule, and she didn’t care for my doing things that interrupted it. My blood pressure was always high with her, but when she left, it always came back down. She would tuck me into bed at night so tight I couldn’t get out without a struggle, she constantly would forget to bring my medicine on my schedule (because it was better whenever she thought was best), and if I was in severe pain, she didn’t really want to give me pain meds so, two hours later I’d have to get up, go to the doctor’s station and ask for it for the third or fourth time. Once it was so bad, I nearly collapsed in a pile on the floor outside the station. I couldn’t breathe, walk more, stand, or lay without extreme pain. Morgen didn’t have time to deal with it.

At the second hospital, I had another two nurses that were so nasty they were almost worse than Orphan Black and Morgen. I nicknamed one Oksana and the other was The Night Nurse. Oksana was this incredibly beautiful Russian nurse, who spoke no English, accidentally (without apologies of course) punched me in the face while taking my blood pressure, told me how difficult it is to take my blood pressure because I’m so large, told the G-Man to stop visiting me and to go home, and would not listen to any of my problems/concerns or new symptoms. She also fought me on pain meds (we don’t have time for that! she’d say), and when my body started swelling up three times it’s normal size, she said- “oh that’s normal”. I, and the doctor who had to rush up to my room later, assure you it was not. The Night Nurse was probably the meanest. Because of the extreme swelling, my compression hose didn’t fit anymore. In the middle of the night, I took them off as they were cutting off my circulation so severely I started losing feeling in my legs. I was very aware that you have to wear them in case of thrombosis, but as the doctor told me, if they don’t fit, they won’t help you anyway. I needed to sleep, I hadn’t slept in all of my hospital experience. My body was starting to shut down. So I took those hose off. The Night Nurse came in, yelled at me about it, and at 3 am, put them back on, waking me up and yelling at me to help her. She struggled and saw that right about the knee, they rolled and started turning my skin white but she said this is the biggest we have so it has to work. The next morning, the doctor came on her round, and gasped. She yelled at the nurses for allowing this to happen, and personally massaged my legs. 4105311_1_1BOBMTBecause the water retention was so bad, she made them ace bandage my legs. That night, The Night Nurse was so angry with me about this, she yelled at me in German that she didn’t have time to do this, it wasn’t fair that the doctor told them to do this because it’s not her fault my legs are so fat, and that she has so many other important things to do. Now- my command of speaking German wasn’t the best before the hospital, but my understanding is pretty awesome. Add that to 4 weeks of only German, and I can speak and understand German MUCH better. The next morning an assistant doctor came, and I yelled at her. I told her this happened, I told her that all of these nurses have made comments about my weight, my size, my nationality, and very few treated me like a human, but more like a burden. I was tired of inconsistency, rudeness, and incompetence. She was beside herself, and said she is quite sure no one said or did any of this. My German roommate turned over and told her, no this really has been happening to her. The doctor was taken aback.  I had a lot of things to complain about but never once, until that moment, did I. But nothing changed.

When I say incompetence among nurses and assistant doctors I meant it. More than half the nurses were incapable of manually pumping to read blood pressure, most didn’t know where on the arm to place the cuff, and all of them told me it’s my fault because my arms are too big. I had to deal with nurses that could not tell where my veins were for blood work, quite a few of them said, oh you’re so dark I can’t see your veins. I had an assistant doctor go to put an IV in, and he missed my veins in three different parts of my arms. I started to cry. I handle pain very well, but this guy came at me with the largest needle possible, missed, moved the needle around, and then gave up to find another location. He ended up giving up and calling in the anesthesiologist, who took one look at me, and had an IV in within seconds. She said- yeah you have great veins, which I already knew– at that point, I had blood taken everyday for 3 weeks, 2-4 times a day and no one struggled before that. The G-Man overheard that this same assistant doctor struggled to put an IV in the patient before me too. This guy was overly confident but not talented enough. My wounds are still healing from him, and the second anesthesiologist said I was lucky he didn’t burst one of my veins. I’m not sure but it would seem that all of the assistant doctors I saw there were so confident with their answers and in their demeanors, but none of them actually got anything right. Everything they said or did was contradicted later by a head doctor.

One thing I did I love, especially at the second hospital, were the midwives. As my health started to deteriorate quickly at the second hospital- I was only there two days before my liver started to fail and my blood was losing the ability to clot, the midwives were the only ones that knew how to easily take my blood pressure and keep me calm. I had head doctors come in to tell me all of my risks (SCARY!), assistant doctors to screw up taking blood work, nurses to tell me how fat I was, and the midwives who held my hand and tell me everything is going to be ok. When the operation time came, I was scared. I began sobbing- I was in a room in a hospital gown full of doctors and nurses I didn’t know, hearing a language I didn’t speak, getting ready to have surgery and The G-Man was not allowed in yet. This one midwife, who we met our first day there, took my shoulders in her hands, and said in English for me- “You are so brave, you took her as far along as you could, farther than anyone thought possible. Now it’s our turn, ok?” I calmed and said ok. The experience felt like an outer-body one; I remember The G-Man there by my side in scrubs looking a bit freaked out, the anesthesiologist making jokes and telling me everything was great, and then the best part- hearing Baby’O crying louder than anyone would have imagined. Ten minutes later she was still crying in the midwife’s arms, and I was able to plant a big ole’ kiss on her before they whisked her away to the NICU. Minutes later, I was whisked away to the ICU where I stayed for a few days, then the normal ward for a few more, and now I’m home, but still recovering from surgery and the disease still hasn’t left. But it’s getting there.

11 days later after the operation, here I am writing this post that is long but doesn’t cover nearly everything. Every head doctor I saw told me two things- that I wouldn’t make it as far as I did, and how strong I was. In between all the fat shaming (come on guys, I’m size 14/16 ok? That’s not that fat!), I had doctors deliver some rather epic speeches about how I really understood what I was there for and how I managed to keep going through the pain just to keep baby_carriage3the baby in as long as I could. I don’t really feel that way- I wanted to do everything I could to give Baby’O the best chances, and that’s not really extraordinary, I’m quite certain any mom would do that for her baby. I go in to see her every day to cuddle for a few hours, and although all the nurses and doctors tell me she’s doing perfectly fine, I still hope I did enough for her. I want the world for her, because she’s the world to me and the G-Man. She’s feisty and strong for being small, and I absolutely love her. It keeps those baby blues at bay, at least a little bit, and it keeps me from really losing it and telling myself how much of a failure I am for not somehow keeping her in longer and having a normal body that does well in pregnancy. I have moments of horrible guilt, worry, and sadness, but they don’t take over me because of her.

I’m not sharing pictures or details of her with just anyone at this moment (actually we did share some details with family, but they blabbed and next I knew I was getting messages of “my condolences” and “sympathies” and “she’s so tiny” and “is she mentally/physically impaired?” and more of the most intrusive questions/comments and idiocy I’ve ever heard). We enjoy her privately, and when she’s getting bigger and stronger maybe then we will share but right now she needs us to be there at the hospital to cuddle her, which we will do and already do happily. I really hope she can come home soon, especially before Christmas because I have this warm happy feeling of love for her and the G-Man, and I feel whole and better than I have in a long, long time. I think that feeling is meaning; I’ve found a bit of meaning in my life.

Thanks for reading!

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10 thoughts on “Having a Baby in Germany Part 2

  1. Sorry to hear about your horrible experience in a German hospital! Those nurses sound dreadful. Glad you are back at home now though enjoying the time with your new baby 🙂

  2. Wow, what an awful experience! I’ve never been in hospital here, but my boyfriend was in hospital in Frankfurt in July and it seemed the doctors were always in a hurry and never had time to explain anything properly. He didn’t have any problems with the nurses though.

    My little brother was 7 weeks early. He had to stay in hospital for about a month, but he’s a perfectly normal 7 year old now. Actually, he’s very intelligent. I can’t believe people are offering you condolences! What the actual f***?!

    Finally CONGRATULATIONS!! I bet your baby girl is beautiful.

  3. What a horrible time you had in the hospital! At least it was all covered, but still. I can’t understand how people can keep their jobs when they’re blatantly incompetent and prejudiced like that.

    But, on the happier side, Congratulations! I’m so glad that Olivia is doing okay, and I hope that the both of you get back to full health quickly.

  4. Oh Germans…such great bedside manner ay? I hate to say this but I’m not even surprised they treated you like that. I haven’t seen much better my way either.

    But on a better, happier note…CONGRATULATIONS!!! What a wonderful happy time this is for you both! Soak it up! She’ll be running around the house in no time!

  5. that sounds miserable. There’s something about German people or their way of things that will never be “normal” to us, humans. ugh!

    However, congratulations! I am happy to hear that after all this, she’s here and you’re doing well. best wishes on a speedy recovery and I also hope she’s home soon with you two.

  6. I second what everyone else said. Congratulations for being so tough and brave and for little O ! Rage welled up reading about what u went thru but prayed for u three. Huge, huge hugs! Despite me not being a fan of d Austrians, d (two, I believe) were nice and no complaints about d docs, either.

  7. I just sat down and caught up on your post and I have to say “Wow!” Your experience is not what you planned it to be but most birthing experiences aren’t. The way you have handled yourself for your baby is incredible! You say that any mother would do the same but I’d wager that you showed more grace and focus in that situation that is not found often. I’m so happy you and baby are healthy and happy. Congratulations, Allie and G-man! Being a parent is the most rewarding and meaningful thing you will ever do.

  8. Dear Ellie, I’m a first time reader of your blog and I can’t tell you how much this post meant to me. I’m an American expat (married to a German) who lives in Wiesbaden, and I’m about ten weeks pregnant. I have hyperemesis gravidarum and was hospitalized twice in December. I had a very similar experience with German nursing care and didn’t manage to get effective drugs for treating my condition until flying back to America for the Christmas holidays. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to learn that I am not alone in these experiences. I think you and your blog are amazing, and will try to keep your example in mind as I continue through my experience with the German medical system. I also really like all your other non-related and honest blog posts about how it feels to be an expat. I have lived in Germany a little over two years and find myself in a similar place emotionally and otherwise. I would love to be in touch in the future, please feel free to email me. Best wishes for a happy and healthy life with your new baby girl!

    1. Hey Beth!

      Thanks very much for the comment- it made my day! I’m wishing you the best for your pregnancy too- if you need anything, my email is aliedow@gmail.com. I can relate and be there to listen, because although the conditions and experiences are different, I understand. Being in here in Germany for the pregnancy was…. crazy. I don’t think there is enough space to write about it all lol. Thank you so much for the kind words, I’m really glad you like the blog!! Keep in touch!

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